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Fourth Edition 

Printed In Gnat Britain to ButUr 8t Tanner. 
From* and London 


C. S. R., L. B. 
. E. R, A. J. B. 


ON looking over these old lectures I notice many details 
which I should now be inclined to alter or to express 
differently. During the last decade the resources of 
painting, like those of politics, have been tested to break- 
ing point, and we shall never be able to regard art with 
quite the same eye as before. But a cool survey of this 
aesthetic battlefield shows that, in spite of all the din 
and debris of conflict, the old landmarks stand just where 
they did. One or two may be rather less prominent : 
that is all. 

For example, in these pages Repose is mentioned as 
one of the characteristics of all great art. So it remains, 
but modern taste would certainly give it less importance 
than Vitality, especially in questions of colour. Colour 
indeed is being studied as it has seldom or never been 
studied before. Persian Miniatures, oriental Carpets, 
with the art products of Japan and China, have contri- 
buted largely to this study, while in the special field 
of painting men like Gaug/lin, Van Gogh and Cezanne 
have broken new ground for controversy or enjoyment. 
So potent indeed have been these influences that for 
those who feel them strongly, much of the painting 


which has passed muster for centuries ceases to have 
any living interest. 

It is difficult, for instance, to believe that the typical 
brownish " Old Master " will ever again excite genuine 
enthusiasm in any educated lover of art. Even among 
the great ones of the earth a similar distinction may 
some day be drawn, and a Rubens with all his fire 
and brilliancy of handling will stimulate us less than 
some vivid primitive, while Filippo Lippi will seem 
tame and sophisticated in the presence of Angelico. 
Indeed Angelico, Uccello, Piero della Francesca and 
the young Michelangelo seem now to hold their own, 
even with the great Venetians, in the matter of colour as 
well as in design. This change is no mere momentary 
fashion. In the matter of design it is doubtless a 
natural reaction from the experimental violence, naive- 
ness, or anarchy of the modern schools, which will in 
time yield or lead to other styles ; but in the matter 
of colour it is hard to imagine any reversion to darkness 
and dullness. The untaught collector will, of course, 
go on buying dingy paintings, as he goes on buying 
drawings by Copley Fielding or Birket Foster, and 
will have the usual following of living mediocrities to 
applaud him ; but the demand for such things whether 
old or modern is a matter of business and has no con- 
nexion with or interest for the creative artist. 

So far as the classification adopted in this book is 
concerned, the recent innovations may be treated under 
the heads of Symbol, of Colour and of Material. Unity 
of Symbol has been carried to its extreme limit by the 
reduction of all objects to geometrical terms by the 


Cubists. Their products thus attained undeniable 
unity of a kind, and sometimes expressed volume and 
mass with a certain success : but the unity and the 
success were of the limited order which may be achieved 
with a child's box of bricks, and have proved too limited 
in their range of expression to retain interest even for 
those who, like Picasso, led the way in exploring. On 
purely decorative work, and on textiles, Cubism may 
leave its mark, for it necessitates the repetition of 
similar forms and similar tones the essential elements 
of decorative rhythm, but it is unlikely that it will 
play any but a subordinate part in the making of 

The treatment of contour has been extended in similar 
fashion from simplification to distortion, with results 
which are variously estimated. Simplification is essen- 
tial to artistic expressiveness, but distortion is a danger- 
ous tool. Where it is the result of swift handling and 
vehement feeling as in an emphatic sketch by Rembrandt 
or Daumier, it may be magnificent ; it may not be 
incongruous in some fierce rhythmic invention of Greco, 
of William Blake or of Van Gogh ; it is the weapon, 
par excellence, of all great satirists and caricaturists. 
To extend its function beyond these clearly defined 
provinces, to employ it deliberately as a means of 
avoiding the difficulties of plain narrative, is a mistake. 
Every variation from natural form must, if we are to 
avoid incongruity, be accompanied by an equivalent 
variation from natural colour. If form is simplified, 
colour must be simplified also : if form is distorted, the 
colour change must be equally drastic (p. 43). Here 


indeed we have a useful touchstone for much modern 
painting. In the best work of Gaugain and Van Gogh 
and in the Still-life pieces of Cezanne, this correspon- 
dence is maintained. Where contours are simplified, 
colour is simplified ; where colour is forced to an extreme 
pitch, design and contour are handled with equal 
daring. Failure begins where form is distorted, while 
the colour remains in some degree naturalistic. 

And colour has assumed, quite rightly, so much 
importance, that to secure it in its greatest possible 
breadth and intensity, some corresponding simplifica- 
tion and concentration of design is seen to be essential. 
To attain that simplicity and that concentration without 
sacrificing the plastic and expressive qualities of fine 
draughtsmanship, is the task of the modern artist. 
Lowness of relief will do much. Much too will depend 
on the colouring of the shadows. It is recognized now 
that one of the secrets of the finest and most brilliant 
colouring, is not to lay stress on the colour of the lights, 
. but to reserve the most intense tones of colour for the 
half-lights or the shadows. If the shadows be full of 
colour, the lights may be almost colourless. Such paint- 
ing may lack some of those qualities of recession and 
relief which we have been accustomed to admire in 
the painting of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, 
but the gain in general attractiveness of aspect, and in 
decorative quality, will far more than outweigh the 

This advance, however, will not become general until 
we become more sensitive to material, and more strenu- 
ous in learning its proper treatment, than most painters 


at present seem to be. Years ago in these pages the 
various methods of handling oil paint were discussed, 
and a general preference expressed for using thin or 
comparatively thin pigment. Time has turned that 
preference into a conviction. The thick rough pigment 
so generally employed to-day by painters of very differ- 
ent schools and aims, not only makes real delicacy of 
handling, and therewith delicacy of expression, exceed- 
ingly difficult, but it also involves a real risk to all 
fine tone and colour. The oil contained in the thick 
masses of paint must almost inevitably rise in time to 
the surface and form that leathery film which already 
dulls and disfigures so many capable pictures produced 
during the last two decades. The more delicate and 
subtle a tone, the more fatal this depreciation becomes, 
and the more easily is it incurred. If therefore we are 
to have a school of colour, we must have a style of 
painting which suits colour. Tempera as a foundation 
was successful in the past. The more direct and im- 
patient worker of to-day will probably continue to 
call for oil painting. If so, he will be wise to paint as 
thinly as he can, dispensing, so far as possible, with oil 
as a medium. Holbein and Ingres in portraiture, in 
figure painting Michelangelo and Bronzino, not to 
mention earlier masters, will point the way at Trafalgar 
Square. For the landscape of the future there are 
no such accessible signposts, and we can only try to 
imagine how Piero della Francesca, or Korin, or any 
other mighty man we admire, would have painted 
" Mousehold Heath." 
Chiaroscuro, speaking generally, is out of favour, 


but the objection does not apply to the greatest Chiaro- 
scurist of all. Rembrandt stands apart and alone. 
His method of painting is appropriate only to his own 
range of thought and his own personal temper, except, 
perhaps, in the field of portraiture, where, as Leonardo 
da Vinci found out long before, a full range of tone from 
deep dark to full light, is valuable, if not essential, for 
profound psychological analysis. Rembrandt's relation 
to the Masters of Colour I have tried to explain else- 
where,* but I may repeat briefly in this place a definite 
conclusion to which the prolonged study and comparison 
of the various schools at Trafalgar Square has brought 

It is this. That only the supreme painters can make 
any free use of chiaroscuro without immediately suffer- 
ing for it. The shadows of oil-painting never get 
lighter, and often get very much darker. Mastic varnish, 
too, turns a rich brown in the course of time, gilding the 
light parts of a picture but adding still further to the 
gloom of the shadows. This varnish, it is true, can 
easily be removed, and the lights will then flash out 
with their pristine freshness, but the shadows are past 
remedy, and will remain impenetrably black. If then 
we wish to paint for eternity, as we ought to wish, we 
must be careful to treat our half tones as the colourist 
treats them, to keep them comparatively pale, and yet 
full of colour, from which the notes of deep shadow or 
black which we use for accent shall stand out sharply. 
" Let your white be precious and your black conspicu- 

* Notes on the Art of Rembrandt. London, Chatto and 
Windus. 1 91 1. 


ous " was one of Ruskin's wisest maxims. But the 
great fact is that the schools of colour seem to stand 
the test of time, while the schools of chiaroscuro do not, 
except in the case of a few very great men, whose psycho- 
logical and technical gifts make us overlook the gloomy 
outward appearance of their pictures. Van Eyck and 
Bruegef De Hooch and Vermeer prove that the Flemish 
and Dutch oil methods may be used with no loss of 
brightness where colour and design and fine workman- 
ship are primary aims. It is only when artists become 
attracted by the fatal fascination of playing about with 
brown shadows, a royal road to the facile picturesque, 
that trouble begins. Yet the modern practice of 
painting thickly and roughly will prove in time hardly 
less fatal, for reasons I have mentioned elsewhere. In 
short, the single chance of escape, as it seems to me, is 
to attempt to be a colourist, to fill shadows with definite 
colour (the richer the better), to model in low relief, to 
use black and white only or chiefly as accents, and to 
paint cleanly, broadly, and thinly. Some effects perhaps 
cannot be obtained quite on those terms : but if we 
keep those terms in mind, we may at least make a better 
bargain with Fortune than if we had gone to work 

C. J. H. 
October 1919. 




II. THE VALUE OF THEORY . . . . . 18 

























INDEX . 321 


THE blunders which we continually make in our estimates 
of contemporary painting, and the incessant squabbles 
between painters themselves, do not argue that art 
criticism so far has been of much practical use, either 
to the world in general, or to the limited class of 
persons who might be expected to read it. So far 
as the general public is concerned, the aesthetic philo- 
sopher may be absolved for his non-success. If he 
has failed to teach it the principles of reason, judgment 
and good taste, no other kind of philosopher has been 
much more successful. Yet when we come to the re- 
stricted class of educated persons, who have been 
closely connected with the Fine Arts in some capacity 
or other, the aesthetic philosopher has been more con- 
spicuously ineffective. The musician and the man of 
letters no longer dispute except over trifles, but artists 
are still at open war over what would seem to be the 
very rudiments of taste : School fights with School and 
Society with Society. The man who, for one section 
of the art world, is a consummate genius, seems in all 
verity to another section to be a charlatan and a cox- 



Fierce though the conflicts may occasionally be that 
rage in the kindred domain of music and literature, we 
find there a general thread of logical agreement uniting 
all intelligent persons, except upon minor details ; just 
as in the world of science men have ceased to argue 
that the world is flat, or that Archbishop Ussher's 
chronology is trustworthy, let us say, beyond B.C. 4000. 
Where they still contest they contest only such ab- 
struse, though fundamental, problems as the digestion 
of the phagocyte, or the disposition of positive and 
negative electrons in the atom. 

In aesthetics we seem to be still almost as far from 
this unity as were men of science three centuries ago. 
A few giant reputations alone rise permanently above 
the cloudy sea of controversy, and even their summits 
now and then are touched by stray wisps of prejudice. 
Around the rest the misty tide of criticism continues to 
ebb and flow, now overwhelming some peak that for 
long years basked in the sun of popularity, now un- 
covering some other mountain mass hitherto shrouded 
in oblivion. 

In spite of all the mighty names connected in one way 
or another with the criticism of the fine arts, we have 
still no fixed standard for passing judgment on pictures 
already existing ; much less such a system of training 
the intelligence as will save us from making gross 
blunders as to future productions. We can make a 
sort of system, perhaps, for judging one particular 


class of work, for Florentine painting of the Renais- 
sance, or for Hellenic sculpture, but these touchstones 
fail us absolutely when we try them upon a Claude 
Monet or a Monticelli. 

./Esthetic critics, then, one and all have failed in the 
chief part of their business ; and why ? To answer 
is not easy, but I believe the fault lies at the door of 
those who have led men's thoughts away from the 
practical side of the arts to dream over enticing abstract 
terms such as Truth and Beauty. Philosophers have 
concerned themselves with an ideal of perfect beauty 
as the foundation of artistic success. Men of letters,* 
if thoughtfully minded, have usually followed the 
philosophers, trying all the while to reconcile the 
abstract philosophic ideal with " Truth to Nature." 
Painters have not written so much as we could wish, 
but a few, among whom Reynolds holds a distinguished 
place, have discussed both the practice and the theory 
of their art. 

Now of these various groups, the philosophers 
neither painted pictures themselves, nor were re- 
nowned for exceptional taste and judgment with regard 
to them. The men of letters in some few instances 
did show practical good taste, but rarely or never, I 
think, in any but a narrow field. The evidence of the 
painters is more valuable, especially where a painter 

* Walter Pater's enlightened and suggestive essay on " The 
School of Giorgione " is a remarkable exception, and deserves to be 
much better known than appears to be the case. 


happens to be known, not only for his skill with the 
brush, but for his sound judgment upon the work of 
other men. In these two respects Reynolds stands 
pre-eminent, and his words have an authority such as 
few other writers can claim. 

Ruskin, in a well-known passage, contrasts his 
theory with his pictures : " Nearly every word that 
Reynolds wrote was contrary to his own practice : he 
seems to have been born to teach all error by his pre- 
cept, and all excellence by his example ; he enforced 
with his lips generalisation and idealism, while with 
his pencil he was tracing the pattern of the dresses of 
the belles of the day ; he exhorted his pupils to attend 
only to the invariable, while he himself was occupied 
in distinguishing every variation of womanly temper ; 
and he denied the existence of 'the beautiful at the 
same instant that he arrested it as it passed and per- 
petuated it for ever." 

There is some truth in the criticism, at least in so 
far as it relates to Reynolds's work outside portraiture. 
He is certainly seen at his worst whenever he attempts 
to realize the ideal beauty of which he talked ; and 
though, with characteristic modesty, he ascribed this 
failure to his own want of capacity, he at least failed 
only where every one else had failed before him. 

Let us consider the efforts made at one time or 
another to turn this notion of ideal beauty to practical 
account. All academies of art, from the late Renais- 


sance to our own day, have cultivated it ; one and all 
have failed to stand the test of time. The men who 
have achieved lasting fame are those who have broken 
away from academic precepts, not those who have 
followed them. In Italy the names of Tiepolo, Cana- 
letto and Guardi, as in France those of Watteau and 
Chardin, have lived, while their learned contemporaries 
are forgotten. 

If any parallel were needed to the case of Reynolds, 
who preserved by portraiture the fame he would have 
sacrificed as a follower of ideal beauty, the case of 
Ingres might be quoted. In Ingres, France possessed, 
by general consent, a draughtsman able to hold his 
own with the greatest, and one gifted too with abun- 
dant power and character. Yet time is gradually 
proving that the fame of Ingres is dependent upon his 
incisive individual portraits, and not upon his gene- 
ralized ideal compositions faultless, in a way, as these 
latter may be. Why is it too that our own gifted and 
generous Leighton touches us with an occasional por- 
trait, like that of Sir Richard Burton, far more than 
by his most able efforts in the grand style ? Why is 
it that Germany, whose painters for generation after 
generation have followed with logic, persistence, and 
often with considerable power, the road pointed out by 
aesthetic philosophers, has produced so infinitely little 
that has any aesthetic value ? 

The common fault found with all these attempts at 


realizing an ideal beauty superior to that found in any 
member of the human race is insipidity. " Yet," the 
philosopher may answer, "insipidity is not found in 
Greek art, where by universal consent ideal beauty has 
been most completely mastered ; it is the talent of the 
moderns, not their ideal, which is at fault." 

However, even Reynolds saw that this ideal beauty 
in Greek art was not one, but many ; that there were 
distinct types ; that there might be an ideal Hercules 
and an ideal Gladiator, as well as an ideal Apollo. 
Had he followed up this train of thought to its logical 
conclusion, or had he known what we now know about 
the development of Hellenic sculpture, he might have 
made a discovery which would have solved his diffi- 

Like all the painters and critics of his day, Reynolds 
was misled by knowing the masterpieces of classical 
art only through the medium of Graeco-Roman copies. 
Now that we can compare the Greek originals with 
the later versions that even half a century ago were 
supposed to represent them, we can easily see where 
the mistake started. In all, or nearly all, these Graeco- 
Roman copies, even where the general proportions and 
the attitude correspond to the originals, we miss just 
those minute subtleties of surface and contour which 
make the difference between the great artist and the 
clever copyist between art which is living and art 
which is dead- However capable the imitation, we 


always find not only a certain stiffness, coarseness or 
emptiness in the modelling, but a certain tendency 
to eclectic generalisation. Whatever the individual 
character of the Greek originals, the copies of them all 
seem to incline in some indefinable way towards a 
single type, so that, without some acquaintance with 
the iconography of the subject, it may be difficult at 
times to decide offhand whether a Grasco-Roman imi- 
tation relates to the time of Pheidias or to that of 

This eclectic sameness, this vague generalized re- 
semblance between all the late versions of Hellenic 
sculpture, would have been enough in itself to suggest 
a wholly mistaken idea of the great Greek artists. 
When we remember that even these copies were not 
seen by Reynolds and his contemporaries in their pris- 
tine condition, but only after they had been repeatedly 
altered, polished, restored, and trimmed to suit the 
taste of successive generations of luxurious prelates 
and degenerate princes, like the antiques still existing 
in the older Roman museums, the wonder is, not so 
much that the principles deduced from them should 
have been incorrect and useless, as that they should 
have been accepted as a foundation for any aesthetic 
canon at all. 

It is easy thus to understand how Reynolds and his 
brother inquirers derived from the eclectic sameness of 
Graeco-Roman work the notion of a perfect ideal beauty; 


just as from its trimming, polishing and restoration, 
most of them associated that ideal with surface finish 
and prettiness. Had they known Greek art as we 
know it now, how widely different would their con- 
clusions have been ! In the place of eclectic sameness 
they would have discovered infinite variety ; in the 
place of one more or less uniform and generalized style, 
they would have discovered a number of emphatic and 
distinct personalities. 

The great Greek sculptors, in short, like the great 
artists of all other periods, are great, not because they 
all conform to some single ideal canon, but because, 
supposing such a canon is conceivable, each departs 
from it by emphasising the particular qualities or 
beauties which appeal to him. It is by this personal 
emphasis, this individual character, that we distinguish 
the style of a Myron, a Paionios, a Pheidias, a Poly- 
cleitos, or a Praxiteles. Not until we come to the time 
when the successors of Alexander the Great founded 
museums and academies does this personal emphasis 
begin to disappear, and as it does so, the art concur- 
rently declines in beauty. 

That the general average of Hellenic sculpture is 
surpassingly high, and that in certain phases of it, as 
in the terracottas, we have to deal with schools rather 
than individuals, does not alter the main fact. The 
terracottas bear no nearer relation to the great Greek 
figure sculptures than the French school of the eigh- 


teenth century does to Watteau. In that school we 
find. a high average of spirit, charm and dexterity; but 
its art is essentially a minor art, and so is that of the 
terracotta figurines. The great artist is great in virtue 
of the individuality of his achievement, as well as of 
its excellence. To resemble another artist or school ^>f 
artists closely is a certain sign of inferiority ; though, 
where the standard is so lofty as it was in classical 
Greece, such inferiority is finer than supremacy under 
a less fortunate star. In the same way the minor 
artists of the Italian quattrocento inherit a general 
tradition of sound design, sound workmanship and 
pleasant colouring, which makes even a hastily 
painted cassone front delightful to the eye, although 
the individuality behind it is feeble or non- 

We must then give up absolutely and for ever the 
application of a fixed canon of ideal beauty, either in 
the human form or in anything else, as a touchstone 
for the Fine Arts. The idea of such a perfect type 
may indeed exist in the mind, but only as a centre of 
departure for those variations from it by which each 
master of the future will reveal a new form of love- 
liness. Instead, therefore, of expecting new talent to 
conform exactly to some existing standard or ideal of 
beauty, we must recognise that genius must inevitably 
be accompanied by a difference from all previous stan- 
dards ; while close correspondence with any of these 


standards, however immediately pleasing it may appear, 
will be a certain proof of mediocrity. 

The secondary effects of reliance upon a canon of 
perfect ideal beauty have been no less calamitous than 
its primary statement. It was soon recognized by 
thoughtful minds that this canon not only failed to 
account for the admitted excellences of many great 
works of art, but was actually inconsistent with them. 
To explain the discrepancy, " Truth to Nature," inter- 
preted in a thousand different senses, was called in; 
and until the latter half of the nineteenth century 
(when " Truth to Nature" began to occupy the field 
alone), the efforts of painters and critics alike were 
devoted to reconciling somehow these shifting, intan- 
gible opposites. 

The result has been utter chaos, disastrous to artists 
both directly and indirectly. Directly, because talent, 
when it does appear, is ushered into a world of con- 
troversy and confusion, where years which might have 
been devoted to active progress have to be wasted in 
searching for a sound road: indirectly, because this 
uncertainty breeds misconception, mistrust and hos- 
tility between the painters of different schools and 
different generations. If one half of the energy 
which artists have devoted during the last hundred 
years to abusing and discrediting their fellows had 
been spent upon creative work, how much richer would 
the world be now, and how much higher would the 


artist's reputation stand for moderation and good 
sense ! 

In the interests of peace, tolerance, and the general 
well-being of painters as a class, some reconsideration 
of the whole theory of the Fine Arts is imperatively 
needed. Two hundred years of ingenious juggling 
with indefinite, and perhaps indefinable, terms like 
Beauty and Truth have led us to disastrous anarchy. 
Until this old disorder of thought is utterly swept 
away out of mind, we can have no stable platform for 
the future structure, in which Classics and Romantics, 
Realists and Idealists, and all the myriad parties and 
factions by which artists are now divided, will finally 
and harmoniously unite. 

Tradition is frequently appealed to as the one thing 
needful, and if the word be rightly understood, the 
appeal is reasonable enough. Tradition, however, far 
from being a panacea for all artistic ills, is strictly 
limited in its scope. In its essence tradition is no more 
than the body of principles which secure conformity 
between art and its contemporary environment. The 
architecture and the conditions of life in any given 
period control the scale, the material, the subject-matter 
and the treatment of the pictures and sculpture produced 
to suit them. As generation succeeds generation, the 
method of securing this conformity with local needs be- 
comes embodied in definite formulae, at first mere trade 
recipes, which amount in time to a technical tradition. 


This tradition, like a canon of perfect beauty, is 
valuable only as a starting-point. The man who never 
goes beyond the tradition of his age can never be more 
than a sound craftsman. For Genius, tradition is 
always a base from which a further advance may be 
safely made. In primitive art these advances will 
enlarge the tradition ; in mature art they may be its 
ruin. A Giotto or a Masaccio departs from the 
tradition of his contemporaries only to widen and 
strengthen it. A Michelangelo, a Raphael or a Titian 
advances so far that no succeeding explorers in the 
same field can hope to gain a new laurel ; the soil is 
exhausted and the tradition doomed. 

But a tradition may die in another way. The con- 
ditions of civilization which originally brought it into 
being may alter so much in course of time that a 
tradition, which was once in harmony with its environ- 
ment, at last is so no longer. The tradition of historical 
and religious painting, for instance, survived in Europe 
for nearly two centuries after it had ceased to corre- 
spond to men's real thoughts and needs. Conversely, 
the revival of any past tradition, however splendid its 
record, is a perilous business ; for unless it can be 
adapted to the decorative and intellectual needs of the 
period of its renaissance, it will be futile and pedantic. 
However much we may learn from the tradition of 
other ages, the tradition of our own age must corre- 
spond with our own thoughts, our own tastes, and our 


own material needs. Our tradition, in short, must be 
in some sense a new thing, or it can be no tradition 
at all. 

The following chapters touch only one small section 
of the Fine Arts, that of painting as practised among 
us to-day, and touch even that in the most rudimentary 
fashion. Yet this restriction to a comparatively narrow 
and material province has one merit. It permits a 
more close scrutiny and a more definite testing of any 
new principles that may be tentatively advanced, than 
would be possible in a larger and more abstract study. 
The older theories have really fallen into disrepute 
and disuse because they consistently failed the working 
artist in his hour of need ; and, unless it can emerge 
successfully from the ordeal of the studio and the work- 
shop, any newer theory will share the same fate. 

The true logical foundation of the Fine Arts is in- 
extricably connected with their concrete function, 
materials and processes; and no abstract philosophising 
which has neglected these essential factors, has 
produced any fruit but fine words, conflicting judg- 
ments and bad painting. It is upon the practical 
sciences of picture-making, of sculpture-making and 
the like, and not upon any group of abstract ideas, that 
the aesthetic philosopher of the future will have to erect 
the complete all-embracing theory which will enable 
artists to be peaceable, art patrons to be confident, and 
art-critics to be unanimous. 


Those who are enamoured of practice without science are 
like a pilot who goes into a ship without rudder or 




THERE is a common foundation from which all the arts 
rise, and that is the need of self-expression on the part of 
the artist, expression of his own personal experience, 
whether it be by words, as with literature ; by sound, 
as with music ; by pigment or plastic shape, as with 
the graphic arts. But there is a further condition 
attendant upon this expression of which we do 
not always take account, namely, that the artist's 
personal experience must be emphasised by strong 
feelings, by enthusiasm, by emotion, or the result is 
not art. 

When experience is set forth without emotion we 
have in literature the prosaic, in art the photographic, 
and in music the academic. So far as poetry is 
concerned I do not think I need defend the theory at 
length ; but its bearing upon painting is perhaps less 
clear. If we accept it for the moment it will give us 
some such description of painting as follows : 

Personal Experience Emphasised by Emotion 
in Flat Decoration. 

For our present purpose the important word in that 


description is the word " emotion " : but, as its con- 
sideration may take a little time, it will be more con- 
venient first to discuss briefly the other portions of this 
description, reserving " emotion " for fuller treatment 

In the first place let us take the word " experience." 
For the painter that implies two things ; first, know- 
ledge of some part or aspect of the world we live in, 
and secondly, command of the processes by which that 
knowledge may be translated into paint. The great 
painter will possess both these forms of knowledge 
in a high degree. A Michelangelo, a Titian, or a 
Rembrandt, not only has profound insight into the 
recesses of the human mind, but lives in an age when 
a technical tradition exists which may be refined and 
enlarged till it becomes capable of presenting this 
insight perfectly. 

Second-rate painters, on the other hand, lack one 
of these forms of experience. Sometimes, like many 
of the Italian eclectics, of the minor Dutchmen of the 
seventeenth century, or of the French Academic 
painters of the eighteenth and nineteenth, they are 
content, when once they have acquired enough technical 
skill to satisfy the public demand for sound handiwork, 
to let their brains go to sleep, and to continue pro- 
ducing empty pictures into which no touch of living 
interest or knowledge is allowed to enter. 

On the other side we have rare independent minds 


like our own Blake, whose imaginative experience is 
of the richest, but who by some defect of character or 
of training have not the means of expressing it per- 
fectly and consistently. Of the two failings this latter 
of course is infinitely the more tolerable, and in 
quoting Blake it must be understood that I do not 
refer to such incomparable designs as the Creation 
of Eve in the Milton series, or The Morning Stars 
in the Job, but to the bulk of his work, where the 
execution is manifestly unequal to the conception. 
In these days, however, there are few who would not 
rather possess an average drawing by Blake than a 
good specimen of Albano or Bouguereau. 

The debris of this second class, the art student who 
has quick fingers and no brains, and the amateur who 
has brains but will not stand the labour of regular 
practice, fade off gradually into the third class the 
bad painters who are too stupid to think or too 
idle to draw, and who for all practical purposes 
may be classed with the children who scribble railway 
trains on slates ; non ragioniam di lor I 

This double experience, however, must be personal 
experience, and that is what hardly one artist in a 
thousand succeeds in retaining. The student has to 
learn the technical part of painting from some master 
or masters in some sort of a school, and few when 
learning the method of their seniors are strong enough 
to avoid learning to see like them also. The greater 


the master the more striking his example, and the 
more abject the submission of his followers. 

School follows school and generation generation, all 
treading the same path of empty unthinking servility, 
until the tradition which, with the first master, was 
fresh and living becomes in later hands an anaemic 
shadow of its founder's practice. Then, perhaps, the 
man of independent mind is born. He sees the futility 
of the work around him, revolts against it, and starts 
a new tradition, doomed in its turn to follow the same 
stages of decay as its victim. 

It was thus that Reynolds, Gainsborough, and 
Hogarth revolted against the dying school of Kneller and 
Hudson. Their tradition in time became moribund, 
and was overthrown finally by the Pre-Raphaelites. 
The Pre-Raphaelite influence in its turn is sick to 
death, and Impressionists, Orientalists, Decorators, and 
Revivalists (if I may use the term without disrespect ot 
those who practise the older methods of using oil and 
tempera) fight over its death-bed for the succession. 

The common feature of all these movements is that 
the great men are always the pioneers the people 
with something of their own to say. The followers, 
who echo (perhaps with some minor differences) what 
the leaders have already said, are men of the second 
rank. Not only then must our experience cover both 
the matter and the manner of painting, but it must be 
personal, must bear the impression of our own 


character, of our own feeling, of our own vision or it 
will be second-rate as well as second-hand. 

The difficulty of being personal, of learning the 
technical part of the art of painting from the example 
of another without at the same time assimilating, 
even unconsciously, that teacher's habit of thought, 
is one which active minds often feel. It is not 
uncommon, for example, to see an art student paint in 
the most garish and violent colours, not from any 
innate bad taste, nor always from the vulgar desire to 
attract attention, but simply from the wish to show his 
independence, to prove that he is not a slave to the 
manner in which he has been trained. Such eccen- 
tricities are perhaps preferable to slavish imitation of 
a teacher's style, but they are often productive of harm 
in another way. When an able student -gives way to 
them, he may attract weaker spirits to follow in his 
steps. He will then not only injure their prospects, 
but may himself be misled by their imitation and 
their praise to regard his extravagance as a merit. 

Then this personal experience must be summed up, 
epitomised, emphasised, in terms of decoration. This 
too we are in danger of forgetting nowadays. We 
are satisfied if our painting has an obvious resemblance 
to nature, without troubling ourselves (as we ought to 
do) whether we have made it a space of delightfully 
interwoven lines and tones and colours, perfectly 
adapted to the position it is destined to occupy, 


and to the surroundings among which it will be 

In the case of small portable works of art immediate 
surroundings need not be considered minutely. It is 
well that pictures in general should not be too dark, 
because in all civilised countries they will hang in 
houses where the light will be more or less subdued. 
Nor need the artist think too much of the furniture and 
wall-papers near which his work may be placed, since 
it will be separated from them by its frame. An easel 
picture, in a sense, is a focus of interest in the room 
where it hangs; therefore its general pitch of colour 
may without disadvantage be made as strong as the 
painter can safely manage. So long, too, as the colours 
are harmonious in themselves and are surrounded by a 
broad band of framing, they will adapt themselves 
wonderfully to almost any position or scheme of 
interior decoration. 

From the decorative point of view then the picture 
and its frame make up a single unit : the one is not 
complete without the other. It is much to be regretted 
that this aspect of the painter's art does not receive in 
these days the attention which was bestowed upon it in 
the early Renaissance. 

Then the large mural painting was nicely adapted to 
the architectural features round it, while the altar-piece 
and the portrait had frames specially designed, often at 
great cost, to dispia* their charms to the best 


advantage. In the same way the black frames used by 
the Dutch Masters were used not only because they 
were exactly suited to the sober furnishing of a Dutch 
interior, but also because they are the best possible foil 
to the tones of red and brown and blue and gray of 
which the majority of Dutch pictures are composed. 

The subject is one which it would be inappropriate to 
handle in detail in this place : but it is impossible to 
lay too much stress on the fact that a picture from the 
decorative point of view must always be regarded in 
connection with its frame. I firmly believe that a good 
deal of the dislike which the public have for modern 
painting is due to the abominable frames in which it is 
presented to them. The art of the furniture-maker, 
the upholsterer, and the paper-stainer, if often 
mechanical, has reached a high point of development ; 
that of the frame-maker rarely rises above the ideals of 
the seaside lodging-house. 

We now come to the phrase "emphasised by 
emotion," and in that phrase lies the essence of the 
whole matter. It was originally suggested to me by 
an article on the emotional base of poetry,* but it 
applies with equal force to painting. The great poet 
has experience of life, but wherein does he differ from 
the great philosopher, the great historian, or the man 

* See The Academy, July 27, 1907. The author, Mr, A. Glutton 
Brock, afterwards discussed the relation of emotion to painting in 
The Burlington Magazine tor October 1907 (vol. xii. pp. 23-26). 


of science? They possess experience too, and may 
express it well, yet their work may be utterly lacking in 
poetry. If we test the matter by examining a few 
examples of fine poetry we shall find that fine poetry 
not only expresses the thoughts of the writer, but 
expresses them with a certain compelling power and 
emphasis. First we note a vivid conciseness oi 
phrasing which concentrates the attention entirely 
upon the decisive words : then the beat of their rhythm 
or the sequence of the vowel sounds will accentuate 
their purport, by calling in the aid of music to rein- 
force the merely intellectual significance which words 
by themselves possess. 

This consummate interweaving ol words and music, 
this vehement concentration of thought in its most 
irresistible form, is the product of emotion, and the 
greatest achievements of all the great poets are replete 
with this emotional quality. When, as in our English 
Bible, we find passages of sublime emotion without 
regular rhythm we have poetical prose ; and the 
poetical element in literature decreases pari-passu with 
the decrease of emotion, till we come to the plain state- 
ments made without any emotion at all, which we term 
prosaic. With them we may fitly compare the thoughts 
which are expressed in metrical form without emotion 
These are commonly called bad poetry, but are no 1 
really poetry at all. 

Emotion then is the keystone of the art of poetry: it 


is also the keystone of the art of painting. The former 
truth is more or less generally recognised. Only a 
dunce or a pedant would sit down in cold blood to write an 
epic. Yet thousands and thousands of painters seem to 
sit down in cold blood and expect to paint good pictures. 

The one effort is no less ridiculous than the other. 
We may perhaps try in cold blood to make an accurate 
drawing, a careful study of some natural fact ; we may 
even find that in such moods our fingers and wrists 
work steadily and accurately, but the result will 
always reflect the coldness of our hearts and, though 
we may view it with some poor pride in our 
own accomplishment, it will never kindle a shred of 
genuine enthusiasm either in ourselves or in any one 
else. When working without emotion we may repre- 
sent things, but we cannot interpret them or inspire 
them with life. We set ourselves in fact to rivalling 
the camera, and enter upon that prosaic contest with a 
heavy handicap against us. 

The true painter's emotion sums up and concentrates 
his experiences in terms of paint, as the poet sums up 
his experiences in terms of rhythm. It seizes on the 
facts of the subject that are essential to pictorial 
expression and rejects all others. It emphasises these 
selected facts by all the devices of the painter's art, by 
rhythm of line, by the spacing and the disposition of 
masses, by light and shade, by colour, and by the very 
handling of the paint, till the result is a harmonious 


pictorial statement in which the various elements unite 
to serve the artist's purpose. 

The taste to choose only the essential thing* and 
reject all others, to recognise by instinct what material 
substances these essentials demand for their perfect 
expression, the scale on which they must be treated, 
their place on the picture surface, the arabesque of line 
and light and shadow and colour which fits them, 
the taste to decide all these questions is part of an 
artist's equipment. It is his professional outfit and, as we 
shall see, it is largely a matter of rule and precept, which 
may be acquired by study, just as a poet acquires by 
study a vocabulary and the rules of grammar and metre. 

But to make good pictures the painter needs the 
stimulus of emotion just as does the poet. Only when 
his thought is white hot can he succeed in effecting 
that perfect fusion of visual idea and professional 
experience which makes great painting. It is for this 
reason and not for any decline in technical skill that 
the art of an age which has been stirred by great events, 
when men's minds are on fire with anticipation of 
future triumphs or with recent memories of triumphs 
achieved, always rises above that of periods of un- 
broken peace. In such easy times clever, pretty 
and humorous work may be produced, but all great 
work is stimulated by the excitement of conflict, 
whether the conflict be one of nation with nation, or 
merely of party with party. 


The artist in short runs into the most acute peril 
the moment he has nothing to struggle against. That 
is the real trouble of those who practise art with 
success. The stimulus to do battle for their convic- 
tions is removed, and their work, which should be the 
outcome of a constant effort to conquer adverse cir- 
cumstances, becomes an easy routine. The example 
of Millais is notorious, both because his original 
talent was so wonderful, and because, when tempted 
by wealth and popularity, he lost not only the creative 
energy which inspired his early designs, but even his 
mastery over his materials. His later works can be 
cheap in execution as well as in sentiment. 

Only the very strongest men can resist this insidious 
failing. Reynolds never started a picture without a 
resolution to make it the best picture he had ever 
painted, and his principle is one that may safely be 
recommended. The artist who does not cultivate his 
emotions and keep them active must run to seed. No 
swiftness of hand, accuracy of eye, or technical ex- 
perience can make amends for their loss. 

Yet emotion by itself is as worthless to the would- 
be painter, as it is to the would-be violinist. Without 
technical experience and constant exercise his hand 
and eye will fail to express the idea he has in his 
mind. He must therefore be master of the rules and 
principles of his art before his emotion can turn that 
art to profit, and it is here that many find a difficulty. 


The principles of design and colour, nay the mere 
mechanical accuracy of hand and eye necessary for 
correct drawing, can only be attained at the cost ot 
persistent effort, and by a succession of exercises that 
may come to seem dull and tedious. The enthusiasm 
with which the young painter sets out vanishes in the 
stress of long study, and he may leave his art-school 
at last with a sound knowledge of technical process, 
but with no artistic emotion left to inspire his creations 
with life. 

Those who feel that the technical part of their work 
is overwhelming them, might be wise to ask whether 
they would not have a better chance of preserving 
their personality and emotion by adopting some simple 
medium ? The life and spirit which they fail to 
secure in oil painting, might be acquired and retained 
if they restricted themselves to black and red chalk, 
to etching, to pen and ink, or to silverpoint. The 
manipulation of these processes is easy compared 
with oil or water-colour, and so the artist can spare all 
his attention for the matter in hand. By limiting his 
method, he may enlarge his ambitions. 

One other point remains to be mentioned. The 
current standard of good manners involves the re- 
pression of emotion in general, so that a writer sug- 
gesting that the artist should try to cukivate and 
enlarge his emotions might seem to advise rebellion 
against our accepted canons of good breeding. The 


painter's emotion, however, is a very different thing from 
the emotions of everyday life, from joy, sorrow, anger 
and the like. It concerns itself merely with the images 
that the artist forms in his mind's eye, and its cultiva- 
tion implies only the intensifying and refining of those 
images. The artist, in fact, must not fear to give his 
admiration free scope, but must encourage himself to 
contemplate earnestly the noble forms, fine colour, 
marked character or subtle play of light and shade 
which he notices in nature. He must strive to keep 
his vision as fresh and emphatic as he can, knowing 
that if he does not feel things strongly himself, he 
cannot expect others to find strong feeling in his 

When a painter has an adequate technical equipment, 
the mental images which he forms will insensibly be 
refined and made emphatic by the keenness of the 
feeling with which he treats them, and this process oi 
refinement and emphasis will continue so long as the 
feeling lasts. Emotion and experience will control 
the rough design, the light and shade, the tones, the 
forms, the colours the very handling of the brush 
being pressed into service, and adjusted to the task of 
adding still further accent and delicacy to the first 
rough conception. 

Lastly we must never forget that the emotion which 
the painter has to cultivate is not the emotion of 
the poet, the musician, or the archaeologist, but the 


emotion which is stirred by the pictorial aspect of things 

and by that aspect alone. 

Whatever charm his subject may have for him by 
reason of its association with life or literature, he will 
make a bad picture of it if he allows the thought of 
this charm to come between him and the thought of its 
pictorial aspect. How many painters set out with a 
fine idea for a landscape and gradually destroy it by 
allowing the intrusion of details that are really irre- 
levant to its perfect pictorial presentation ! How many 
subject-pieces are degraded to the level of common 
illustration from the wish to tell a story completely, the 
completeness entailing the introduction of figures or 
accessories that distort the original pictorial idea ! 

Pictorial quality is such an elusive thing that it 
is apt to vanish even when lines and masses are 
reproduced by a clever photographer. How infinitely 
greater is the peril in which it stands when the painter's 
thoughts stray in the direction of poetry, history, or 
science when he forgets that his first business -is 
simply and solely to make a beautiful picture, and that 
every addition which is not an addition to its external 
beauty is an excrescence. The danger naturally attacks 
most forcibly men who occupy themselves often with 
ideas which are not strictly pictorial, and it is for this 
reason perhaps that the painters who are fine orators 
or clever men of affairs are seldom able to keep 
their other accomplishments out of their pictures. 


The friends of princes, like Raphael the scholar, 
Rubens the diplomatist, or Van Dyck the courtier, 
never move us quite so profoundly as those who, like 
Rembrandt, are masters of but one art, and have 
intensified their powers in solitude. If we realised the 
paramount necessity of such concentration and detach- 
ment we might perhaps more frequently try to secure 


SUPPOSING that some strong emotion such as that we 
have discussed impels us to express our thoughts 
and feelings in paint, how are we to set to work? 
How are we to provide those thoughts and feelings 
with just that artistic embodiment which most perfectly 
corresponds to them ? Is this process of realisation 
something entirely apart from ordinary reasoning 
something quite independent of deliberate intellectual 
effort, something which must come to us from outside 
by inspiration and is incapable of analysis or trans- 
mission to others ? Or is there some science, tradition, 
or system of knowledge which will indicate the lines 
on which our mental images may be set in order and 
transmuted into good pictures ? 

The latter of these two alternatives is commonly the 
more unpopular. Yet even the numerous painters of to- 
day who congratulate themselves upon their freedom 
from the errors and the restraints of the tradition 
of the- o)d masters, and who would be the first 
to repudiate the notion that theory can be of 



any practical help to an artist, are not quite true to 
their own flag. They imply the existence of at least 
some guiding principle or theory by the stock phrases 
which they use as touchstones both for their own 
work and for other people's. Such words as Truth, 
Nature, Values, Tone, Brushwork, Plcin-air, Breadth, 
Finish, Decorative, Sincere, Direct, Strong, Luminous, 
are really but abbreviations for separate little codes 
of formulae, rules, or devices for picture-making ; and 
those who rely upon one or two of them exclusively, 
have rebelled against the idea of a complete science 
or tradition, only to become slaves to a fraction of such a 
science. The complete theory of painting will embrace 
impartially all these smaller and narrower theories, just 
as it will embrace artists so widely diverse as Rossetti 
and Courbet, Michelangelo and John Van Eyck. 

The writer however who attempts to lay any definite 
and substantial foundation for the Fine Arts has 
always to face a certain prejudice. He seems to 
explain away, or to offer a mechanical substitute for 
those exceptional feats of the intellect which are 
commonly known as genius. Even the great Reynolds 
has not escaped this prejudice, although he foresaw and 
prophesied it. " To speak," he remarks, " of genius and 
taste, as in any way connected with reason and 
common sense, would be in the opinion of some tower- 
ing talkers, to speak like a man who possessed neither." 
So Reynolds's own works, though they are almost 


unequalled in point of inventive design and colour, 
are still sometimes termed cold and devoid of feeling 
simply because he had the courage to proclaim boldly 
that a large portion of the field of art was under the 
dominion of rules, and, to encourage beginners, 
pronounced that nothing was denied to well-directed 
labour. It is for these stimulating exaggerations, as 
well as for their astonishing sanity and practical good 
sense, that Reynolds's " Discourses " will ever be the 
enthusiastic student's favourite book. 

The phrase quoted from Sir Joshua's Second 
Discourse was explained and modified by him four 
years later in the Sixth Discourse. 

" What we now call Genius begins, not where rules 
abstractedly take end, but where known, vulgar and 
trite rules have no longer any place. It must ot 
necessity be, that even works of Genius, like every 
other effect, as they must have their cause, must 
likewise have their rules ; it cannot be by chance that 
excellencies are produced with any constancy or any 
certainty, for this is not the nature of chance ; but the 
rules by which men of extraordinary parts, and such 
as are called men of Genius, work, are either such as 
they discover by their oTvn peculiar observations, or 
of such a nice texture as not easily to admit being 
expressed in words ; especially as artists are not very 
frequently skilful in that mode of communicating ideas. 
Unsubstantial, however, as these rules may seem, and 


difficult as it may be to convey them in writing, they 
are still seen and felt in the mind of the artist ; and he 
works from them with as much certainty, as if they 
were embodied, as I may say, upon paper. It is true, 
these refined principles cannot be always made pal- 
pable, like the gross rules of art ; yet it does not 
follow, but that the mind may be put in such a train, 
that it shall perceive by a kind of scientific sense, that 
propriety which words, particularly words of un- 
practised writers, such as we are, can but very feebly 

The argument is unanswerable. As the ages go on 
we may be able to formulate sound principles of 
picture-making and picture criticism, far in advance of 
and far more subtle than any principles we can deduce 
to-day, but each advance will not imply a nearer 
approach to the secret of Genius. It will merely 
provide talent with a further stepping-stone from 
which to leap forward. 

It cannot be too definitely stated at the outset that 
a knowledge of principles is no substitute for inven- 
tion. Principles by themselves cannot create a work 
of art. They can only modify and perfect the vague 
pictorial conceptions formed in the artist's mind, which 
are the foundation upon which he builds. When these 
first vague conceptions are once formed, and sketched 
out in tentative shape, the service of theory begins. 
By its help the first rough, incomplete idea is gradually 


trained, corrected, and perfected, till it is transformed 
into a final and complete design. The general plan is 
adjusted and spaced, contours are made significant, the 
colour-scheme is thought out, and the material required 
is selected, so as best to enhance the particular end in 

To the beginner, this process of selection and 
arrangement may seem pedantic and mechanical, and 
at first the traces of deliberate planning will almost 
certainly be evident in his work. Yet after a little 
while the brain will become used to the regular exer- 
cise which the application of formal tests entails, and 
will not only be strengthened by the exercise, but will 
learn to do quickly and instinctively what at first was 
only done by laborious, deliberate effort. 

In a well-known passage, Leonardo points out how, 
by constant practice, the eye may be trained to 
measure spaces accurately. It is not then illogical 
to assume that the eye may be trained by similar 
practice, to recognise those harmonies of rhythm and 
relations of mass which make design decorative. To 
the gifted few this sense is given by nature, just as to 
a few is given the faculty of drawing correctly with 
but little effort or training, yet there is no doubt that 
most men with any feeling for art, however modest 
their natural gifts, could increase their power of 
recognising harmonious spacing by proper cultivation. 
The first attempts might be tedious, but speed would 


come with practice, and they would in the end seem to 
plan their compositions by native talent rather than 
any conscious process or system. 

And if we make this admission how much does it 
not imply? Design is the first element, the ground 
work, the foundation of all art, and if proficiency, not 
to speak of supreme excellence, can be attained in it 
by methodical practice, are we to despise any formal 
gymnastics that lead to so desirable an end ? Let any 
one with a love of fine design visit an ordinary modern 
exhibition such as that of the Royal Academy, and 
judge for himself how many of the exhibitors can be 
termed even tolerably competent designers. The vast 
mass of the work exhibited is in one way or another 
accomplished, but how little of it shows even a trace 
of the noble spacing of lines and masses which we find 
everywhere in the National Gallery ? 

There has been undeniably a certain danger in the 
study of rules and principles. Those who have studied 
them much have frequently come to regard them as an 
end in themselves and not as a means to an end. 
This mistake has been due to more than one cause. 
Sometimes, as in the case of Paolo Uccello, enthusiasm 
for a particular principle may run riot at the expense ot 
all others. Sometimes, as in the case of many eclectic 
painters, rules come to be regarded as a substitute for 
invention, and a few principles of composition may be 
employed upon a limited range of stock subjects, till 


the artist becomes a hack, possessing, it may be, 
considerable facility of hand but nothing else. 

These perils have been incurred not by setting an 
excessive value on principles and theories of design, 
but by utterly misunderstanding their character or 
purpose. As we shall see these principles are not in 
the nature of moulds or patterns to which the subject 
matter of a picture has somehow to be adapted, and 
into which it has ultimately to be squeezed. Even 
Burnet's "Treatise on Painting," the most complete 
compendium in English of the traditional practices of 
the old masters, has its reasoning stultified, and its 
usefulness much diminished by this disastrous fallacy. 
The principles of design, instead of being fixed and 
rigid like geometrical figures, are infinitely flexible, 
and always dependent upon the subject~mattet of a 
picture, being indeed no more than the means of 
emphasising that subject-matter perfectly. Having 
said this much to correct a general misconception as 
to the nature of theory we must turn to some other 
elementary factors in the making of a good picture. 


OF all the elements which go to make an artist the 
faculty of invention is perhaps that most dependent 
upon innate natural gifts. Nevertheless it may be 
doubted whether any man who has a mind of average 
capacity and a genuine enthusiasm for art is wholly 
devoid of it. In certain great artists, as in Rubens for 
example, the inventive faculty is strongly developed; 
such men are capable of pouring out an infinite 
number and variety of designs. In others, as with 
Velasquez, it operates within narrower bounds. 
Sometimes, as with Blake, it makes too heavy a 
demand on the means of artistic expression : at others, 
as with the minor Dutchmen and many modern 
painters, it is dormant and subordinated to dexterity in 

That the inventive faculty can be stimulated 
artificially has been held by more than one great 
artist. Leonardo mentions the study of the markings 
produced by time and damp upon old walls ; Reynolds, 
the study of the inventions of other artists ; Gains- 



borough is said to have played with toy landscapes, 
with bits of stone for rocks or hills, and pieces ot 
looking-glass for water ; Alexander Cozens recom- 
mended the working up of chance blots artificially 
produced. The reading of history and poetry is 
another well-known recipe. Most of us as we read 
conjure up in our minds some image, usually vague and 
dim, of the scenes described in print. Could we but 
fix and materialise these conceptions on paper or 
canvas we should have taken the first step on the road 
to creative design. 

Better, however, than books or pictures, discoloured 
walls or artificial devices of any kind, is the study of 
nature. It is from nature that we derive the pictorial 
symbols by which we must express our ideas in paint ; 
nature too, especially at twilight when all petty 
details are obscured, is infinitely suggestive, and her 
suggestions have the vitality which a picture also must 
have if it is to retain its hold continuously upon the 
minds of men. The impressions we get from nature are 
at once more complete and more vivid than those we get 
from artificial sources, and, as a rule, are less trouble- 
some to record. 

Yet if we work entirely from nature we have to face 
a difficulty of another kind. When technicalities are 
once fairly mastered the actual process of painting 
from nature becomes almost mechanical and, if we paint 
with a model always before us, we are apt to get into the 


habit of copying indiscriminately all that we see, without 
troubling to stop and think whether what we are re- 
cording is really pictorial is really improving our 
picture. In fact the moment that we cease thinking, we 
forget to omit what ought to be omitted, and to select 
just what ought to be selected to make a good picture, 
and are placing ourselves on a level with a photo- 
graphic camera. Nor does the trouble end here. When 
a man has once yielded to this fatal habit it grows 
upon him till he ceases to think at all, and goes on to 
the end of his life painting more or less accurate tran- 
scripts of nature, possessing it may be, some skill, but 
no vitality or character. He becomes one of the great 
host of mediocre modern painters, who have to console 
themselves with the thought that they are sincere, 
conscientious and truthful when others find them 

Nevertheless if we look at nature too little we are 
thrown on our own resources ; we imitate ourselves 
and become empty and mannered, as all schools and all 
artists have done who did not constantly refresh their 
minds in the presence of nature. How then are we to 
pick our way between the two extremes ? 

I think we shall be wise if we adopt the system 
upon which all great creative artists have worked, that 
is to say to paint our pictures, not from nature herself v 
but from memory, assisted by studies made in thf- 
presence of nature. 


Our studies from nature will fall under two distinct 

1. Notes of happy combinations of figures or masses, 
or light and shadow that we may chance to see, and 
that suggest possibilities of pictorial treatment. 

These being for the most part only first aids to the 
memory will rarely require a high degree of finish. A 
few suggestive lines or blots of colour will be enough 
to serve as a reminder, while the fleeting character of 
many of the most attractive natural effects will, in itself, 
often compel a certain degree of swiftness in the work 
if the critical moment is to be recorded at all. 

2. Sketches of details, which may, nay must be 
more complete. Since the degree of realisation needed 
for any single part of a picture cannot be settled 
finally till the picture is well on its way to completion, 
the artist runs less risk if his preliminary studies 
have been full and precise. 

A hasty study however good of its kind may omit 
just the very things that happen to be needed in the 
particular picture for which the study was made. A 
careful study may contain much that afterwards may 
prove unnecessary, but the painter who has such a 
study can take what he pleases and leave the rest. He 
is at any rate on the safe side. 

In thinking of a composition it is essential to fix the 
attention on the general disposition of the lines and 
masses, of the shadows and colours. This general dis* 


position can be best emphasised in a rapid sketch. In 
an elaborate study it is apt to be confused by details 
which, when a picture comes to be painted, prove to be 
irrelevant and disturbing. The mere fact of working 
from a slight sketch keeps the mind on the qui mve 
and the memory active, while the absence of nature 
leaves the intellect free to select just those elements 
and no others which have pictorial significance. Of 
details, however, we cannot have too accurate a recol- 
lection. However much we decide in the end to 
conventionalise or simplify them, a knowledge of their 
essential character will survive in the abbreviated 
symbol we invent for them, and our work will suggest 
nature even where it does not attempt to imitate her,. 

The practice of all the great masters up to the 
middle of the nineteenth century bears out this con- 
tention. Almost without exception we find their 
studies of detail from nature to be exact and careful : 
their studies for compositions where they exist at all 
are slight and sketchy. In the former case their 
attention is concentrated upon recording particulai 
facts : in the latter upon recording a general effect. 

This practice we have almost given up to oui 
immense detriment. We try to make a single elabo 
rate sketch serve the double purpose of recording 
particular facts as well as a general effect. The facts 
we may secure, or at least so many of them as are 
moderately permanent in character, but the general 


effect is, or ought to be, a thing of the moment, and is 
gone while we mix our colours. 

If on the other hand we make a sketch, no matter 
how rough and hasty, of the general effect of a scene., 
we are at any rate sure of its general disposition, of its 
essential features, and of the spirit of the moment that 
made it seem desirable to us. We can then at our 
leisure make separate notes of such facts and details 
as we cannot trust our memory to retain. When we 
come to paint our picture we shall have the rough 
sketch to inspire us, and the finished studies to help us 
where our memory fails. Executed with these aids 
our work should lack neither spirit nor solidity, and we 
can comfort ourselves with the thought that we are 
working on the system which makes the best possible 
use of such brains as we possess. 



HAVING come thus far we must ask ourselves under 
what conditions are we to use the suggestions of our 
imagination or of nature, in order to transmute them 
into good pictures? What principles in fact are to 
govern the selection and arrangement of our materials ? 
That selection and arrangement are necessary, must be 
taken for granted. Nature is a vast inexhaustible 
storehouse, but to suppose that if she be taken as she 
is, the result will be a picture, is like supposing that a 
department of Whiteley's if bought en bloc will make a 
furnished house. 

This cardinal fact has been recognised by every 
artist who has done fine work, yet it is so constantly 
neglected not only by students but by painters and 
critics who ought to know better, that it cannot 
possibly be emphasised too strongly. Nor has the case 
ever been put more neatly than by Whistler in his 
" Ten o'Clock," a masterly piece of criticism which 
would perhaps have received more attention from the 


world had it only been rather less witty. The passage 
is well known to all admirers of Whistler's art but is so 
apposite to our purpose that it may perhaps be quoted. 

" Nature contains the elements, in colour and form, 
of all pictures, as the keyboard contains the notes of 
all music. 

" But the artist is born to pick, and choose, and 
group with science, these elements, that the result 
may be beautiful, as the musician gathers his notes, 
and forms his chords, until he brings forth from chaos 
glorious harmony. 

" To say to the painter that nature is to be taken as she 
is, is to say to the player that he may sit on the piano." 

Now there are four qualities which all fine pictures 
in some degree possess, of which mediocre pictures lack 
at least one, and of which bad pictures lack at least 
three. These may be taken as essential conditions of 
good work for ourselves, and as touchstones of a simple 
kind for testing the work of others. The four qualities 

(i) Unity; (2) Vitality ; (3) Infinity; (4) Repose. 

The order of their relative importance will vary with 
the function of each painting, the taste of each age, 
and the temper of each individual painter. The age 
of Poussin would have given Unity the first place ; 
most landscape painters and the continental artists 01 
to-day would certainly vote for Vitality; Leonardo, 
Michelangelo and Rembrandt aimed first at what we 


have termed Infinity ; while almost all hieratic art 
must gain its end by the expression of Repose. With 
all mural painting too this last quality must be a 
primary consideration. 

1. That Unity is a condition of all good painting is 
self-evident. Although a picture may have to form 
part of a scheme of decoration, and therefore bear a 
definite relation to other pictures or other portions of 
the scheme, it must also be complete in itself, a panel 
with a single decorative pattern, and a single purpose. 
However many figures, incidents, colours, or groups it 
may contain, these diverse elements must all be knit 
into a rhythmic, coherent whole. If two groups or 
masses divide the spectator's interest the result is 
confusing, and so falls short of complete success ; if 
more than two elements compete for mastery the con- 
fusion in the spectator's mind is still worse confounded. 
If in looking at a picture we are long in doubt as to which 
is the central motive, if a number of lights or shadows 
or colours press themselves upon our eyes with an 
equal degree of insistence, we may be sure that the 
work is lacking in unity and, whatever its other merits, 
has one very serious defect. Men of prolific imagina- 
tion like Tintoret are more prone to suffer from lack of 
unity, than those who like Velasquez seem to work 
with cool deliberate science. 

2. It was not without reason that the Chinese critic 
of the sixth century placed rhythmic vitality first in 


his famous six canons of painting, for Vitality, the 
sense of life in a picture, is almost as important, nay 
perhaps even more important than unity. If the sense 
of life be absent the most able composition leaves us 
cold ; if it be present we can condone many other 
faults. Rubens in the Netherlands, Michelangelo in 
Italy will serve as types of artists possessing this 
quality in full measure, while among English landscape 
painters, Constable would serve as a characteristic 
example, and might be contrasted with Whistler, to 
whose otherwise perfect artistic equipment vitality was 
often in some degree lacking. 

3. The third condition of painting, Infinity, is less 
easily defined. It implies an escape from too bald and 
precise statement ; a sacrifice, perhaps, ot immediate 
force of effect to depth of impression : the introduction 
of an element of uncertainty or evanescence in spacing 
in tone, in colour or in line. It is the quality towards 
which delicacy of eye and hand contribute most, 
whether it be manifested in tremulous gradations ot 
colour as with Titian and Watteau, of tone and line as 
with Leonardo, of shadow as with Rembrandt, or of 
atmosphere as with Turner. Of all pictorial qualities 
infinity is perhaps the rarest in these days, yet no art 
that has lacked it has retained the highest rank, and 
for want of it even a Sargent may have to be content 
with a place among brilliant painters, and not among 
the supreme artists. 


4. Repose on the other hand is a quality which all 
painters of reasonably good taste can compass. It is 
a condition which, like unity, bears largely on the 
decorative value of a painting ; which insists that a 
picture shall be a portion of the wall on which it hangs, 
and shall not attempt to deny its function, by simulated 
projection of masses, by unpleasant turbulence of line, 
or by noisy importunate colour. If unity then may be 
said to give a painting coherent structure, vitality to 
inspire it with the breath of life, infinity to redeem it 
from shallowness, repose may be said to endow it with 
good manners. 

Design is often spoken of as if it were something 
distinct and separate in itself, in the nature of a 
general pattern or a scale of patterns into which the 
subject-matter of a picture had somehow to be fitted. 
Many painters of to-day seem to hold this view, or 
something like it, for nothing is commoner than to see 
the new wine of modern portraiture and landscape put 
into the old bottles of Velasquez or Whistler or any 
other master who happens to be the fashion. 

As we have seen design is not rigid but flexible ; 
not independent but absolutely dependent upon the. 
subject-matter to which it is applied and the function 
it is called upon to serve. In its essence it is no more 
than the perfect emphasising of that subject-matter 
under the oictorial conditions previously discussed 


It is by design that the realist makes his reality tell 
best ; it is by design that the man of imagination 
makes his mental creations take complete pictorial 
shape ; it is by design that the illustrator presents his 
story best, accentuating just the points that deserve 
accent and no others. 

Pictorial design then may be described as emphasis 
subject to pictorial conditions. As such it will vary with 
each new theme to which it is applied, and will be co- 
extensive with the infinity of materials available for 
pictorial purposes. To deal with such a vast subject 
all at once is clearly impossible and we can only hope 
to understand something of it by separating the various 
parts of painting, and seeing how emphasis may best 
be obtained from each of them in turn. For practical 
purposes we may regard those parts as seven in 
number, so that the study of design may be resolved 
into seven separate studies, namely 

(i) Emphasis of Symbol : i.e., by means of the 
devices or signs employed by the artist to 
convey his meaning, or to transmute naturaJ 
phenomena into terms of art 
(ii) Emphasis of Plan : i.e., by means of the 
surface disposition of the hues and masses in 
a picture. 

(Hi) Emphasis of Spacing : i.e., by means of the 
proportion the masses bear to one another. 


(iv) Emphasis of Recession : i.e., by the apparent 
nearness or remoteness of the objects con- 
tained in a picture. 

(v) Emphasis of Shadow. 

(vi) Emphasis of Colour. 

(yii) Emphasis of Material. 

The emphasis in each of these cases will be subject 
to the pictorial conditions of Unity, Infinity, Vitality, 
and Repose. The various parts of our inquiry may 
therefore for clearness' sake be set out in tabular form 
as follows 










Unity of 

Vitality of 

Infinity of 

Repose of 

Plan i i 

Unity of 

Vitality of 

Infinity of 

Repose of 


Unity of 

Vitality of 

Infinity of 

Repose of 

Recession . 

Unity of 

Vitality of 

Infinity of 

Repose of 

Shadow . 

Unity of 

Vitality of 

Infinity of 

Repose of 

Colour - . 

Unity of 

Vitality of 

Infinity of 

Repose of 


Unity of 

Vitality of 

Infinity of 

Repose of 

A tabular analysis of this kind may not at first 
sight seem a particularly hopeful method of approach- 


ing our subject, even to those who admit that an 
orderly habit of thought may be no disadvantage to a 
painter or critic. Nor can the classification adopted 
here make any pretence to logical perfection. It is a 
mere rough and ready makeshift frame-work, which 
the reader will be able to amend and complete for 

Some such formal analysis, however, is necessary 
if we are to think clearly about a subject so infinitely 
complex as pictorial design. We must have some 
definite starting-point for diagnosis, some systematic 
method of inquiry, if we are to localise faults, if we 
are to understand the causes of those faults, and so to 
discover the appropriate remedies. The working 
artist will find the arrangement much simpler in 
practice than it looks at first sight. With one im- 
portant exception it has been utilised throughout the 
following chapters. The variety of painter's materials 
and processes is so great that the whole subject 
could not be treated at once. Each method and pro- 
cess is therefore discussed by itself. 

The two kinds of rhythm described on p. 66 might more properly 
have been discussed in this chapter. The major rhythm in alliance 
with the principle of unity controls the decorative character, the 
pattern of a painting, just as the minor rhythms in alliance with 
vitality determine its quality. If the major rhythm be absent we 
have an illustration, not a picture. See pp. 317, 318. 


THE question of the pictorial symbols which the 
painter employs is not always rightly understood. 
Critics often speak as if some absolute correspondence 
might exist between the things which a painter sees 
in nature and the representation which he makes of 
them. In some cases, indeed, this absolute corre- 
spondence may exist, as when we see some trompe 
Vail in the shape of a piece of still life, a portrait, or 
the landscape in a panorama so realistically treated as, 
under certain conditions of place and lighting, to be 
indistinguishable from nature. 

Yet this kind of literal facsimile is neither judged 
by the common consent of educated men to occupy a 
high place among existing forms of art, nor is it 
possible to obtain it with most subjects and under 
most circumstances. We may force our tones as 
much as we please, but we cannot attain to the pitch 
either of nature's sunlight or of her deep shadows, 
while with many mediums, such as etching, there can 
from first to last be no question at all of actual imitation 



The painter is thus compelled willy-nilly to suggest 
nature by his art rather than to imitate her, and the 
symbols by which he makes the suggestion cannot 
have any absolute correspondence with nature, but 
only a correspondence that is subject to limitations of 
material and of the purpose in view. 

Yet some correspondence must exist between a 
pictorial symbol and the object it represents, or the 
symbol would fail to convey to the observer the im- 
pression of the object. That the correspondence, too, 
is rather a close one may be inferred from the uniform 
advice of all the great artists who have left a record of 
their opinions, "Go to nature," and from the fact that 
" Truth to nature " has been the motto of almost all 
teachers of art in all periods. 

Yet even if we recognise the limitations of materials, 
and admit that " Truth to nature " must be subject to 
them, as it is even in a photograph, the phrase does 
not solve our difficulties. There have been many 
painters who have succeeded in imitating nature as 
closely as their materials permitted, but hardly any of 
them have a place among the world's great masters. 
Every year there are hundreds and hundreds of 
pictures exhibited in London exhibitions which are 
more true to the aspect of our every-day world than is 
Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne. But we know that their 
painters are not greater artists than Titian any more 
than a pood photograph of such a place as that glorified 


by Rembrandt in his Three Trees would be superior to 
his etching. " Truth to nature," in fact, is a phrase 
which cannot be pushed to an extreme in matters of 
art. " The business of a great painter," as Reynolds 
points out, " is to produce a great picture, and he must 
not allow himself to be cajoled by specious arguments 
out of his materials." 

Works of art are subject to conditions of function 
and material which cannot be disregarded. The form 
of a flower may suggest to the goldsmith a shape for a 
noble cup, but to imitate the flower in metal would be 
to make a cup from which no one could drink in 
comfort. So with a picture or a drawing. Nature may 
suggest a design, but the materials, and the purpose 
which the picture or drawing has to serve, set limits to 
actual imitation of nature. These cannot be exceeded 
without breaking the harmony which ought to exist 
between matter and manner, between the subject and 
its perfect pictorial expression. The pictorial symbols 
by which we express nature will thus have a relation 
both to nature and to art. If we neglect the relation 
to nature our work will be shallow, mannered, or ab- 
surd ; if we neglect the relation to art it will be bad 

That pictorial symbols must have unity, must be of 
the same kind throughout any single work of art, 


should be self-evident. Yet the incongruity of intro- 
ducing two different forms of symbol into the same 
picture is not always recognised. 

We do not, perhaps, think a drawing by Gains- 
borough or Rembrandt would be improved if we were 
to substitute trees cut out from photographs for their 
eloquent shorthand, but we do sometimes see pictures 
in which jewellery is represented by real stones set in 
the paint. Tricks like this are really as barbarous as 
the landscapes made out of sea- weed which amused our 
great grandmothers, and deserve the same respect. 

A more subtle, if less serious form of error creeps in 
when one part of a picture is a careful imitation of 
nature while another is pure convention. The un- 
reality of French genre painting of the eighteenth 
century of the school of Watteau is accentuated by 
the difference between the careful painting of the 
figures and the conventional handling of the landscape. 
In the work of Gainsborough this sense of artificiality 
is lessened, because both figures and landscape are 
treated with a similar loose suggestive touch which 
serves as a bond between them. 

The same incongruity is frequently seen in pure 
landscape, in the work of many English artists of the 
middle part of the nineteenth century, who combine a 
natural sky and distance with conventional trees and a 
conventional foreground. Copley Fielding will serve 
as an example. Greater men like Turner and Crome 


use conventions, but they use them so consistently that 
the whole is all of a piece, and we are not conscious of 
any discrepancy. The examples of Blake, of Daumier, 
and of Puvis de Chavannes might also be quoted to 
show how the character and treatment of figures must 
be reflected in their landscape setting. Indeed not the 
least difficulty of imaginative art is to secure this 
identity of symbolism where there is great diversity of 
generic character: to render for instance a cloud, a 
rivulet or a tree in precisely the same abstract terms 
that may be required for the human figure. 

If for purposes of design we have to employ fantastic 
or conventional symbols it may thus be unwise to 
attempt to imitate nature too closely when we come to 
colour them. The toppling crags and twisted trees on 
a piece of Chinese porcelain would look ridiculous if 
any attempt were made to colour them with the hues 
of nature ; coloured as they are with the most dazzling 
and impossible colours they may be superb works ot 
art. Conversely if the symbol be drawn from nature 
with extreme verisimilitude it must be coloured, if at 
all, with something like the same accuracy. The draw- 
ings of Cotman often look hot or garish, just because 
the details are so accurately drawn from nature that we 
expect a corresponding likeness to nature's colour. 
Sometimes this artificial colouring is made to look 
almost natural by contrast with a foreground group, 
coloured with quite impossible violence, but the device, 


for obvious reasons, is not a safe one, though it has 
Turner's example also to sanction it. Directly the 
contours cease to be precise, as in Cotman's late work 
(and still more in that of Turner), the colouring may be 
almost as independent of nature as the artist pleases 
without this loss of congruity. Wilson's mannerisms 
in painting trees would not annoy us so much were his 
pictures less true to nature in their rendering of 
atmospheric tone and colour. 

To artists this question often presents problems of 
no little difficulty. In painting interiors with figures the 
background, if painted as precisely as the figures, will 
tend to overwhelm them, yet if conventionalised it will 
look weak and artificial unless the figure is painted 
with a similar convention, as was done by Reynolds 
and Gainsborough. To hold the balance evenly needs 
no little judgment, and few besides John Van Eyck, 
two or three Dutch masters and Chardin have done it 
with complete success. The same problem is ever 
present in portraiture, though there it can be evaded 
more easily by placing the sitter in front of a plain 
wall or a curtain. 


A pictorial symbol must also have vitality. If it is 
to represent a man it must convey the impression of a 
living man, and not of a dummy ; if it is to represent a 
tree it must at all costs preserve the impression of 
organic structure, of some thing alive and in its degree 


sentient. The artist must realise, as the modern man of 
science has done, that vitality in one sense or another 
pervades all nature, otherwise his rendering of nature 
will be inert or dead. He must recognise the life not 
only of animal and vegetable forms, but of stones and 
water, of mountains and clouds. 

The slightest scrawl that conveys this sense of 
vitality is a thing of interest ; the most elaborate 
painting that fails to convey it is dull. Not without 
reason did the Chinese place this quality foremost 
among their canons of art, and their painters have 
proved that almost every other attribute of an object 
may be sacrificed yet, so long as vitality be retained 
the pictorial representation will be successful. 

Let us first consider how this bears upon the art of 
portraiture, and ask ourselves how in a portrait the 
character of vitality is best attained. A moment's 
thought will show that a rapid sketch in pen and ink 
or some such emphatic medium, will suggest more 
vitality, more of the sitter's force and character than 
anything except a powerful finished picture. A chalk 
drawing worked up with the stump until it renders the 
texture of the sitter's flesh, or a highly-finished water- 
colour sketch which would imitate the colour of the 
sitter's dress and complexion, will be far less vivid and 

If we think out the reasons of this superiority we 
shall find them to be somewhat as follows. 

i. The pen lines seize only on the essential features 


2. They state them with the utmost possible clearness. 

3. The very swiftness of the strokes conveys to the 
spectator an impression of vigour analogous to that 
exerted by the draughtsman. 

A pen and ink sketch by an untrained hand if it 
catches the essential points of a man's features, and 
states them decidedly, may thus possess vitality, while 
an unskilful photograph in which every plane and 
contour of the face is rendered with perfect accuracy 
may be dull and dead. Instead of stating only the 
essential points the photograph will record the un- 
essential also ; it will be weak in tone compared with a 
picture and, however good in other respects, it will 
certainly fail to convey the sensation of vigour that is 
suggested by forcible handling. 

The principle that applies to portraiture will apply 
also to figure and to landscape ; and here we begin to 
see why it is that the bulk of the painting in out 
modern exhibitions, in spite of the skill, effort, and 
labour spent upon it, is so deplorably monotonous. 

Misled by such ambiguous phrases as " sincerity " and 
"truth " the painter apes the camera. Instead of con- 
centrating himself on the essential features of his 
design, he wanders off in search of unessential detail ; 
instead of stating these essentials forcibly, he buries 
them under a mass of trifles ; instead of stating them 
swiftly and fluently he works them up laboriously to a 
conventional polish. 


Yet it may be thought that such a creed as this 
implies a denial of nature. The truth is the exact 
contrary. Let us imagine the conditions previously 
mentioned one by one. 

In the first place the artist has to seize only the 
essential features of the thing he paints. Yet how is 
he to recognise them unless he knows his subject- 
matter by heart, and sees its relation to the particular 
form of work he has in hand ? Is not this knowledge, 
this faculty of wise selection, a greater faculty than 
that of undiscriminating imitation however exact ? 
There can be no doubt whatever that it is so. Imita- 
tion of some sort can be compassed by any trained 
student ; the judgment which can instinctively 
separate the pictorial from the non-pictorial is the 
attribute of a master. 

Take, for example, such a thing as a rock. Fifty per 
cent, at least of the pupils in any good art school could, 
if they were set to the task, make a map of its cracks 
and stains and lichens and projections not much 
inferior in accuracy to a photograph. A great artist 
however, will take only just so much of its specific 
character or accidental peculiarity as suits the purpose 
he may have in hand. For an elaborate oil painting 
he may require to render it with some approach to 
completeness, but he will be on the look out to see 
where his materials will help him to make his render- 
ing look easy and natural, to suggest texture and 


character by the very surface and quality of his pig- 
ment ; and to see that the brush strokes with which he 
draws its form are related not only to that form, but 
also to the scheme of the picture which they help to 

Working in such a medium as silverpoint, he will at 
once recognise that the texture and surface which can be 
so readily suggested in liquid pigment cannot be readily 
suggested by a metal point. He will therefore waste 
no time over them but, since the silverpoint naturally 
produces delicate lines, will pick out the delicate lines 
in his subject, and concentrate his powers upon them. 

The treatment of the human figure must be 
governed by exactly the same principles. When 
silverpoint is used it must be used so that its par- 
ticular charm of line is preserved. It will thus em- 
phasise delicate contours, but will suggest modelling 
only by a few open strokes, like those which we find 
in the silverpoints of Leonardo and Raphael. To aim 
at complicated effects of tone, as some moderns have 
done, is to misuse the medium in the way etching ha? 
been misused by some contemporary etchers. 

Where effects of tone are required they must be ob- 
tained by mediums which naturally suggest tone. Hence 
the great masters when rendering the subtle surfaces 
of the human body draw in chalk or wash, while to 
emphasise the insertion of muscles or tendons, or to 
mark bony structure, they use the more emphatic stroke 


of the quill or reed pen. When painting, colour, surface 
and structure can all be rendered ; but in using a less 
complete medium the artist has constantly to be selecting 
only those attributes of the human form which suit the 
medium and no others. So far indeed is this process of 
selection carried by the best draughtsmen, that they 
will not try to draw one inch more of the model than 
the piece or feature that interests them. If they are 
studying the back, they will draw the back alone 
and leave the head, hands and feet unfinished. 

The still prevalent custom of setting students to 
make large finished drawings of the whole figure is bad, 
just because it gives no play to this faculty of selection. 
The draughtsman instead of concentrating his interest 
on the passages which interest him, has to labour 
at representing many things that interest him little 
or not at all : the loss of emphasis so occasioned 
reacts upon the spectator, and the drawing proves a 
dull thing however capably done. The great masters 
themselves, sometimes, are not free from this failing. 
Even Michelangelo and Raphael have left us highly 
finished studies which exhibit their skill rather than 
their genius. A study which says too much may seem 
perhaps more easy to work from than one which says 
too little. But the loss of spirit that inevitably accom- 
panies loss of emphasis, may in the end prove a 
heavier handicap for the practised artist, if not for 
the student too, than paucity of detail. 



Thus for the true artist every medium dictates its 
own essentials, has its own set of pictorial symbo 1 ?, 
and these cannot be transferred to the service of any 
other medium without risk of disaster. A broad oil 
sketch of a rock, such as we have mentioned, would not 
be very helpful material from which to work up a good 
silverpoint drawing, or vice versd. Our sketches and 
studies therefore should always have a distinct relation 
to the medium in which they are to be worked out, as 
well as to our memories. 

As to essentials then, we may briefly say that all 
work with the point will naturally seize upon contour 
and structure, as the things most readily suggested by 
lines ; while in working with broad layers of tone the 
proportion, value and quality of the masses will be the 
things first sought for. Texture is a thing essential 
only in a limited class of subjects and, even there, 
should never be sought for till the greater essentials 
have been firmly secured. All painting which in any 
degree relies for its attractiveness upon imitation of 
texture is inconsiderable ; yet, since texture is a thing 
which the veriest ignoramus can recognise when 
imitated in paint, the pictures which make it prominent 
are usually sure to be praised by the multitude for the 

So in drawing a head or a hand, the artist will try 
to mark first of all the structure and contour, and will 
not devote his energies to expressing the smoothness 


of the skin or matching its tone. In painting the same 
subject however, tone becomes an essential and texture 
may become so too. There is no fixed rule as to 
essentials. They vary infinitely with the subject and 
the materials, and all great painting is a constant 
process of discovery and invention: discovery of the 
essentials of the matter in hand, and invention of the 
pictorial symbols best adapted to represent them in 
the chosen medium. 

A tree, for instance, is something too minutely 
detailed for exact imitation ; it has to be represented 
by a symbol. Now if we compare for a moment the 
symbols used to represent trees by three or four 
famous landscape painters, we shall see how large a 
choice is left to the artist in search of essentials. For 
Hobbema the essentials of foliage are intricacy com- 
bined with serration of woody growth in the boughs ; 
hence the minute involutions of touch by which he 
realises those essentials. For Gainsborough grace of 
mass, a delicacy of substance that responds to the 
gentlest breath of wind, and the capacity of leaves to 
retain and reflect the light which permeates through 
their interstices, are the essentials. His foliage symbol 
is thus elegant in form ; in character luminous and airy. 
With De Wint a tree tells as a heavy mass of cool 
green, and his usual symbol for trees disdains alike 
the intricacy of Hobbema and Gainsborough's light- 
some grace. Constable's symbol is more complete. 


His trees have freshness, mass, motion, and not in- 
frequently grace, intricacy and individuality; but tht 
blending of all those qualities makes them often some- 
what unmanageable as decorative units. Constable's 
contemporaries and successors either contented them- 
selves with a less comprehensive formula, as did 
Turner and the Impressionists, or have produced 
second-rate pictures. 

We must in fact not only state the essentials we wish 
to keep, but we must state them clearly. The majority 
of Constable's followers in landscape have failed be- 
cause they tried to do too many things all at once. 
Constable himself, sometimes, as in the finished painting 
of the Haywain, attempts to blend too many qualities 
in a single work. Hence the large sketch for it at 
South Kensington, which attempts much less, is more 
powerful, lively and fresh. 

We must not only choose our essential features 
rightly, but we must take care that there are not too 
many of them, or they will nullify one another and the 
result will be ineffective. In a pen and ink sketch, or 
an etching, of a sunlit meadow the untouched paper 
may be a sufficient symbol of the brightness of the sky 
and the grass, but we should risk losing much of this 
brilliancy were we to lower the tones by adding colour. 
It is for this reason that so few pictures minutely 
painted from nature have any liveliness. They attempt 
too much. 


Rembrandt's best etchings owe their peculiar power 
co his self-restraint in this respect. In his early plates 
he makes effort after effort at rendering local colour. 
When however experience had shown him that these 
efforts always resulted in heaviness, he gradually taught 
himself to do without colour when he needed brilliancy 
of lighting. As his portraits prove, he could suggest 
colour magnificently if the occasion required it. 

Lastly, the perfect pictorial symbol will suggest life 
and vigour by the seeming ease and swiftness of its 
execution. I say seeming ease, because an appearance 
of facility may often have to be attained with great 
labour, and is generally obtained only by long practice. 
The fluent sweep of Rubens's brush, the caressing touch 
of Gainsborough, and the slashing strokes of Sargent, 
convey alike to the spectator an impression of power 
and liveliness which enhances immensely the effect of 
their work, and this faculty of rapid handling is so 
generally recognised to-day that it has become a 
fashion with the younger generation of artists, just as 
the fashion of their seniors is the exact contrary. 

Is it always recognised that this swiftness is ad- 
missible only in treating essentials, that if these 
essentials are not grasped by the artist the result is 
an advertisement of unessentials in other words a 
shallow mannerism that has nothing solid behind it ? 
Much of our clever modern portraiture, in which 
Sargent's facility is aped witiiout a tithe of his power 


and knowledge, is open to this charge of superficiality, 
just as the modern landscape, which is founded 
on imperfect apprehension of Ruskin and the 
Pre-Raphaelites, inclines to the opposite extreme, 

This clear and swift statement of essentials is a 
matter of immense consequence in art. Even where, as 
in the case of etching, the materials employed can 
render only a few attributes of the object they are 
employed to interpret, these conditions of clearness 
and swiftness, if duly observed, will produce a far 
stronger sense of vitality than an elaborate representa- 
tion in which the full force of the palette is employed. 
Has any painter ever invested stone and plaster with 
the life that breathes from the etched lines of Meryon ? 
The paintings and drawings of the Chinese and 
Japanese masters possess a similar intense vitality, 
calligraphic as they are; so do the drawings of 
Rembrandt and Gainsborough. The case of Gains- 
borough is especially striking, because his convention 
for drawing such things as trees is hardly less 
calligraphic than the convention of the Chinese, though 
it is founded upon a more personal knowledge of 
nature and, as a generalisation of her infinite detail, is 
more graceful and less pedantic. Yet though his art is 
thus conventional and calligraphic, Gainsborough is 
able, even in a chalk drawing, to convey an impression 
of the freshness and vitalitv of landscape no less vivid 


than that produced by Constable with all his earnest 
enthusiasm, or by Rubens with his unequalled strength. 
In this connection a word must be added on one 
feature peculiar to modern painting, namely the 
suggestion of light, atmosphere and movement by 
broken tones, and separate strokes or spots of pigment 
That the vibration of these scattered touches of pigment 
is in some degree analogous to the vibration of nature's 
light and nature's air is incontestable, though with not 
a few this vibration theory has been pushed to the 
verge of caricature. At present there is a tendency to 
make a universal formula out of a method that is no 
more than an additional means of artistic expression 
applicable only to a limited class of subjects. Hence 
we see portraits or still-life subjects painted, often 
cleverly enough, with a technical symbolism that is fit 
only for the suggestion of twilight, wind or blazing 
sunshine. The error is one which time will correct in 
due course, but not before many clever painters have 
ruined their life's work by reason of it. 


When, then, we have once decided what the 
essentials of our subject are, every complexity which 
diminishes the clearness of the symbol we employ to 
represent them, every moment that we linger over the 
strokes we apply to our canvas, must in some decree 


diminish the vigour of the result we obtain. Were 
vitality the supreme end of art the artist's task would 
thus be a simple one. But there are other things to 
be considered. We have not only to make our work a 
thing that catches the attention for the moment by its 
vigour, but something that will hold and enchant the 
attention by its subtlety. 

Our pictorial symbol must thus contain some element 
of complexity in addition to its directness and swiftness 
or it will soon appear tedious and empty. So we 
render to the infinitely varied touch of a Raphael or 
Watteau the homage we cannot extend to the flourishes 
of a writing master ; so the blotted bistre wash of a 
Rembrandt or a Claude is pregnant with a mystery 
that we never find in the flat lithographic tones of 
Prout and Harding. 

It is on this point that the commonly accepted view 
of good drawing is fallacious. The drawing of Flaxman, 
for example, will still pass current with many because 
it is clean and neat and decisive, but how empty and 
mannered is it seen to be if compared with the infinite 
variety of the line of Ingres ! All Academic teaching 
since the days of Michelangelo and Raphael has been 
a failure, because it has condemned students to copy 
the manner of former masters instead of directing them 
to look in nature for the subtlety and variety which 
those masters found there. It has compelled them to 
part with all sense of life by forcing them to spend 


weeks over a drawing instead of hours ; to obscure the 
significant features of the model before them by the 
addition of a mass of unessential details, and the imita- 
tion of minor attributes, such as texture or unimportant 
variations of local colour. 

The one quality which separates the true draughts- 
man from the clever drawing master, is an intense 
persistent sympathy with the exquisite refinement of 
nature's modelling and nature's colour. To cultivate 
and develop this sympathy by a determined effort to 
see and delineate subtlety of curvature and surface, 
even at the cost of all appearance of accomplishment 01 
vigour, should be the first aim of every student. With- 
out it no routine of practice can avert ultimate failure ; 
with it even an unready draughtsman will in time 
develop competence. 

It is here that the need of constant study of nature 
comes to our help. We can only hope to interpret 
nature in art by symbols, but those symbols will hardly 
be symbols of nature at all if they have not something 
of the infinite variety and subtlety that we find in 
nature. To inspire our symbols with vitality we must 
set them down as quickly as we can, yet as we do so 
we must have ever present in our minds the character 
and complexity of the things those symbols represent. 
We must know nature, we must love nature, we must 
respect nature, all the time we are making use of her. 
If we ever trust to mere dexterity of hand, mere habit 


of touch, we fall at once into mannerisms, and our 
work becomes shallow. Though we may deceive our 
contemporaries for the moment by an appearance of 
skill and vigour, we may be sure that posterity will 
have time to reflect upon our work, will recognise its 
emptiness, and will relegate us to the oblivion which 
engulfs impartially the dunce and the man who is 
merely clever. 


So much has already been said about the necessity 
of Repose in art that its application to pictorial symbols 
need not detain us long. If our symbols are to be 
restful we must be careful not to sacrifice everything to 
vitality ; that is the truth of the whole matter. In the 
matter of tone for example we must beware of excess 
of contrast, and in making a forcible study with very 
black chalk we shall achieve a more harmonious result 
by working on a toned paper than by using one which 
is dead white. So when using line we must be careful 
not to avoid lameness and dryness by rushing into the 
opposite extremes of contortion, as did many Germans 
of the Renaissance, and many of the Chinese and 
Japanese artists, or of conceited flourishes as did many 
of the later Italians. Nor when using colour should we 
attempt to force it to the loud and noisy pitch many 
moderns affect, notably the Germans, led away by the 
powerful talent of Bdcklin. Our symbols must indeed 


have vitality, but they must be reasonable also ; that 
is to say they must be in harmony with the decorative 
needs of the work of which they form part. What- 
ever their individual virtue, unless they take their due 
place quietly within that work they will be out of place 
and valueless. 

Nor must we forget that Repose is an essential 
quality of the greatest natural objects. Thus, how- 
ever much we may wish to emphasise the vitality of 
a rolling plain, of a chaos of tumbled mountains, or of 
an angry sea, there must ever, in the midst of all this 
tempestuous movement, be felt the real stability of the 
earth, the steadfastness of the mountains, or the vast 
immobile bulk of the sea, upon which the largest waves 
that ever swelled are no more than mere momentary 
froth. It is from this sense of the everlasting un- 
conquerable, immeasurable mass, space, and serenity 
of nature, and not from the agitations of superficial 
things such as winds and waters and clouds, that we 
derive the most profound and majestic impressions. 
Our art should therefore strive to keep in harmony 
with nature's repose, or we shall stand but a poor 
chance of understanding her when she wakes from it. 


THE surface planning of a picture is all-important. A 
well planned work with no particular felicity of exe- 
cution will more than hold its own against the most 
brilliant feat of brushwork that is based upon a poor 
design. The labour of planning a composition may 
appear tedious, but it bears with it a double reward. 
Not only does it enable us to treat the matter in hand 
to the best advantage, but the exercise of the eye and 
the brain, in spacing and placing the essential points 
of the composition, trains those organs for facing 
future problems of the same kind. So we may reason- 
ably hope that the designs which, in youth, we make 
by painful and conscious effort, will in manhood come 
to our trained perceptions with the swiftness of 

In every visual conception there must be certain 
cardinal points on which the expression of the subject 
depends. These we have first to fix, and define to 
ourselves in their relative order of importance. That 
is to say we must decide quite finally what is the 


principal thing we wish to express. If we hesitate, 
even for a moment, between two rival centres of 
interest, we shall be wise to lay our design aside until 
reflection has settled which of them can best be 
subordinated to the other. 


We must in fact begin by recognising the pictorial 
condition of Unity. A good picture has one subject, 
not two or three subjects ; one focus, not several. 

Secondly the principal feature will have most 
prominence if it be placed somewhere near the centre 
of the composition. To place it actually in the centre 
is advisable only in formal compositions ; or where the 
effect of formality can be disguised by an unequal dis- 
position of masses elsewhere. 

Thirdly its effect will be strengthened and en- 
hanced if it be supported on each side by secondary 
masses. These may be small or large, but the pre"^ 
dominance of the central mass must in some way 
be preserved. This may frequently be done by making 
it receive the principal light, or by investing it with 
special force or distinctness of colour, but so far as 
plan alone is concerned it is most readily secured by 
making the focus of the picture rise higher than its 

Here we arrive at the principal of triangular or 


pyramidal composition ; which, however disguised, is 
the secret of almost all stable and compact pictorial 
designs. In a portrait the head forms a natural apex 
to the arms and body. In early religious painting the 
group of the Madonna and Child naturally takes a 
pyramidal shape, which in elaborate compositions is 
disguised by an architectural or landscape setting, and 
by flanking figures of attendant saints. The apex of 
the pyramid is often balanced below the base by the 
introduction of some smaller feature of interest, which 
serves as a new link to tie the flanking masses 
together, so that the triangle becomes a quadilateral. 

With Raphael this quadilateral or diamond shaped 
plan is further disguised by softening and rounding 
the enclosing lines until the pattern becomes an oval- 
This oval in its turn is supplemented in his most 
elaborate designs, such as the Disputd and Trans- 
figuration, by a triangular mass being arranged below 
it, so that the composition consists of two systems 
instead of one. 

The oval is often used alone by bad landscape 
painters, and is often recommended to amateurs as a 
safe and easy system of arrangement. Like its relative 
the vignette, the oval lacks the firm lines that make 
for power. Claude, Turner and Corot alike are seen to 
the least advantage in the compositions by them that 
are based on this feeble system. 

In Venice Giorgione, and Titian after him, introduced 


new modifications of the pyramid. R.omantic sug- 
gestion rather than majestic statement was their aim 
and, to admit the feeling of uncertainty which they 
needed, they were compelled to get rid of the restful 
obvious firmness of the pyramidal arrangement, or at 
least to disguise it. In Giorgione's Fete Champetre in 
the Louvre, the group to the right is composed in the 
traditional way, the summits of the house and the 
tallest tree behind it accenting and repeating its pyra- 
midal form, but the figure turning to the fountain, 
while harmonising with the seated figures, leads the 
eye away from them in an upward sweep to the left, 
and so prevents their formality from striking the eye. 
In the so-called Sacred and Prof ane Love in the Borghese 
Gallery, Titian goes still further, for the two chief 
figures, and the sarcophagus on which they lean, form 
the base and sides of a pyramid whose apex we cannot 
see, for it is outside and above the picture. 

With Veronese, Tintoret, Rubens and the decorative 
painters who followed in their footsteps, movement and 
variety came into fashion in the place of Unity, so 
that the crowded compositions of these painters are no 
longer openly based upon the solid and stable form of 
the pyramid. In all simpler designs, however, it may 
still be traced, though it is frequently disguised by 
devices such as those invented by Giorgione and 
Titian, or by the introduction of two or more inter- 
secting pyramids into the same picture. This method 


will be found to explain many designs which, like the 
colour prints of Hokusai, at first sight seem too 
capricious or too complicated for analysis. 

Indeed when once the pyramidal idea of composition 
is thoroughly grasped, few stable and coherent designs 
are found to be without it. Canaletto's canals and 
Claude's sea-pieces resolve themselves into schemes of 
two pyramids, a greater and a less placed side by side, 
even when we do not find in the centre a smaller 
repetition of the form making the focus of interest, as 
in Claude's Seaport (No. 14) in the National Gallery. 


Yet vitality, the sense of life and movement, is for 
many subjects as important or even more important 
than absolute coherence. How then when we wish to 
give vitality to our work can we emphasise it in the 
arrangement of the ground plan ? 

Ideas of motion are most forcibly suggested to us by 
those sharp oppositions of diagonal lines which we note 
in the movements of the larger animals, or in the 
spiral undulating curves of a flame. It is with such 
lines as these that we must work if we are to get the 
appearance of life and motion. 

In Rubens and Tintoret we see violent and turbulent 
action suggested by the rapid involution of the 
curves of the figures and draperies, sharply con- 


trasted here and there with the rigid lines of weapons 
or architecture. In the pastoral compositions of Claude 
and Corot, as in the gentle Madonnas of Raphael, the 
curves have a more suave undulation and are much 
less abruptly opposed by rigid lines. Where these 
curves are broken by too many smaller modulations, 
as in the work of many eclectic artists, the effect be- 
comes restless and weak. 

If we can balance the significant lines by a 
repetition or echo, their emphasis will be enhanced 
and the rhythmic quality of the design much im- 

The nature of rhythm, although it lies at the root 01 
all decorative design, has never been studied in relation 
to painting so methodically as it has been analysed 
in connection with poetry. In poetry we recognise at 
once how the obvious periodic recurrence of certain 
accented syllables, which we term metre, plays a most 
important part in determining the character of any 
particular poem. We cannot write an epic in hendeca- 
syllables, nor a love song in the metre of "Dies 

So in painting, the character of a design is determined 
by its general pattern. The stern contours of a Poussin 
will not fit the themes of a Fragonard, any better than 
the style of Cosway would have suited William Blake. 
Each subject with which the painter has to deal has 
thus a class of patterns corresponding to it, from which 



the painter must choose if he is to present his matter 

We may take a second hint from poetry as to the 
limits within which this condition applies. While the 
general character of a poem is to some considerable 
extent dominated by the metre employed, its quality is 
determined not only by the intrinsic value of its subject- 
matter, but by the way in which the metre emphasises 
or accents that value. 

We have thus, as it were, two kinds of rhythm. One 
is the formal metre of the poem which governs its 
general character ; the other the delicate adaptation of 
the metrical accent to the particular thoughts which the 
poem conveys. So in painting, we have to consider 
not only the large and obvious sweep of the main lines 
and masses, but also the subordinate rhythmical quality 
of the component elements. In the work of an imper- 
fectly trained artist, such as William Blake, we may 
find the main disposition of the pattern to be grand and 
appropriate, but the minor rhythms to be mannered 
and conventional. Such work might be described as 
possessing more character than quality : while the 
pictures of the minor Dutch painters where, if the 
details are ingenious, the general plan is petty and 
confused, might be described as possessing more 
quality than character. 

We have seen that rhythm implies periodic recur- 
rence or repetition. If that repetition is definite and 


apparent, it will, like rhyme in poetry, make for a 
corresponding directness of emphasis. If the character 
of the primary rhythm be lively, repetition will enhance 
its vitality ; if it be restful, repetition will enhance its 
repose. Cotman's Wherries on the Yare, where the 
sweep of the great sail is echoed by the cloud forms 
behind it, is a striking example of the simple and 
forcible patterns which may thus be obtained. 

If the recurrence is too frequent and too regular, the 
result will be pettiness with a bad painter, artificiality 
or confusion with a good one. Rubens for instance, from 
sheer exuberance of spirits, has a tendency to repeat 
flowing curves till his figures seem to writhe rather 
than to move. An ill-designed wall-paper, for a similar 
reason, may often be singularly irritating ; nor can a 
very short definite metre be used for a very long poem 
without becoming tiresome. 

On the other hand recurrences which are slightly 
irregular, and which suggest the primary rhythm with- 
out exactly imitating it, will usually be pleasurable. So 
the finest poetry is not that which conforms uniformly 
and exactly to metrical stress, but that in which metre 
is most subtly and infinitely varied in accordance 
with the thought expressed. Yet this desire for 
subtlety must not be carried too far, or we shall ob- 
scure the main rhythm and so lose infinitely more in 
character than we gain by polish. The cultured 
modern poet may dull his talent thus : our younger 


painters, perhaps, go too far in the opposite 

We may note also that symmetrical rhythms, such 
as those found in early altar-pieces, convey a sense of 
order, unity, and restfulness ; unsymmetrical rhythms, 
as we shall see, may convey a sense of movement. 

Hogarth in his almost forgotten treatise, "The 
Analysis of Beauty," has devoted some space to 
considering in what precise form of curve the most 
perfect beauty resides, midway between the swelling 
curves which are pompous and extravagant, and the 
flatter ones which produce an effect of stiffness. In its 
immediate and practical bearing on picture-making the 
discussion is of small importance. 

To propose any definite geometrical curve, as contain- 
ing in itself a line of perfect beauty, is as futile as to 
impose upon the artist any rigid canon of the human 
form. As we saw in the Introduction, canons of correct 
proportions have often been studied, and formulae for 
them have been worked out, even by great artists. But 
no great artist has ever allowed his powers of expression 
to be hampered by such a formula, or has employed it 
except as a convenient mean from which a significant 
deviation could start. The great Greek sculptors from 
whom our modern canons are usually derived, did just 
the same, each proving his originality by deviating 
from the canons of his predecessors in search of a new 
and slightly different type of human perfection. It is 


just as absurd to search after a single ideal contour, as it 
is to suppose that some single ideal human form exists 
which is equally appropriate to all subjects and con- 
ditions of treatment. 

Hogarth's general principle of the use of spiral, 
serpentine, or flame-like lines to suggest vitality and 
motion will, in fact, be more serviceable to the painter 
than the too rigid formula for the curve itself which he 
grafted upon it. In practice we find curves of very 
different kinds associated in the same picture, those 
that approach the stiffness of a straight line tending to 
austerity of effect, those with a more undulating flow 
suggesting more lively motion. 

The upright and horizontal lines of Hobbema's 
famous Avenue would make the picture seem stiff and 
rigid but for the sweeping curves of the cumulus clouds 
above them. Piero della Francesca's Baptism is even 
more formal, the one concession to the element ot 
vitality being made up of the spiral line formed by the 
curve of the river, the back of the figure stripping his 
shirt, the sweep of the hill-side and the rounded 
masses of foliage on the left, assisted by the arched 
top of the panel. 

In Botticelli's Nativity a much greater degree of 
vitality is suggested by the exquisitely interlaced lines 
of the various groups, to which the rectilinear forms of 
the manger and the trees behind give a note of dignity. 
The pattern of this picture might well be compared 


with Blake's glorious design of The Morning Stars. 
The still more fierce and full-blooded vitality of Titian's 
Bacchus and Ariadne is emphasised by the presence of 
spirals everywhere, while the level lines of the sea and 
the clouds, with the vertical lines of the tree trunks, 
just serve to keep the effect from being tumultuous, as 
we sometimes find it in Correggio or Rubens, and often 
in the works of the Italian and Flemish eclectics, 
whose sprawling saints and fluttering angels are now 
so odious in our eyes. 

We must note, too, how the placing of the chief 
mass of a picture may suggest motion, and that in a 
particular direction. In a portrait, for example, if the 
figure be placed near one side of the frame, it will often 
seem to be moving into or out of the picture space, 
according to the direction in which the head is turned. 
If the head looks away from the centre, the figure will 
appear to be retiring ; if the head turns towards the 
centre, the figure will seem to be advancing into the 
picture. Even the turn of the body will sometimes be 
enough, as Romney's admirable half-length of Lady 
Hamilton with a Goat indicates. 

A similar massing of the figures within a diagonal 
drawn from corner to corner accentuates the swing and 
movement of Titian's Europa, now unfortunately lost to 
England. This form of design is commonly used by 
landscape painters to emphasise effects of wind and 
storm: the wind seeming to blow out of the picture 


towards the side where the masses are heaped up within 
the diagonal. The drawings and etchings of Legros 
include many examples of this kind of emphasis. 


Infinity perhaps depends less upon planning than 
upon the subsequent stages of picture-making, yet 
even the plan of a picture may sometimes assist 
materially in producing this effect. It does so by 
giving to the mere general aspect of a picture an 
elusive quality, which at once attracts the eye and 
defies analysis, whether by subtle complexity of parts 
as in Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne, in Turner's Calais 
Pier, and Rubens's Chateau de Stein, or by an equally 
subtle simplicity which disguises the artifices used to 
produce it, as in Rembrandt's Landscape with Tobias 
and the Angel, Turner's Bligh Sands, and Crome's 
Windmill. Where the artifice of the design is apparent, 
as in Fra Bartolommeo's Holy Family, this quality is 
lost at once> and even Gainsborough's splendid gifts as 
a painter, a colourist, and a poet, never quite compensate 
for the obvious arrangement on which The Market Cart 
is based. 

So far as infinity of plan is concerned, it would seem 
as if the artist ought first to arrange his subjects with 
the utmost skill he possesses, and then use still more 
care in removing or disguising all traces of his previous 


deliberation. Painters are but novices in their craft 
who compose pictures of which the secret can be 
exhausted at once. 


As ideas of motion are conveyed by diagonal or 
spiral lines, so ideas of repose are conveyed by vertical 
or horizontal lines. A level expanse of calm water, or 
the upright shaft of a poplar on a windless day, 
of themselves convey the idea of repose to us ; while 
in a place of tumbled rocks and mountains, be the day 
never so still, our minds are affected by the sense 
of movement. 

If then our design is wholly made up of swelling and 
diagonal lines it will be restless, and though restless- 
ness may be the feeling which we wish to state 
emphatically, we must not forget that we have to state 
it within the limits of the conditions proper to paint- 
ing. Now since a picture is liable to be seen constantly, 
any restlessness of design tends to become more and 
more evident with the lapse of time, and the spectator's 
discomfort will increase with the scale of the picture, 
and the pitch of its tone. Many of the large and 
elaborate works of the Bolognese School are un- 
pleasing to us on this account. If they were painted 
on a small scale and with less force of tone and colour 
their defects would not be so importunate. When re- 
produced as book illustrations, and so seen but in- 


termittently, they may not trouble us at all, and may 
make us wonder why we like tne originals so little. 

The ideas of repose which we connect with horizontal 
and vertical lines are strengthened when the lines are 
repeated, as in the case of the level flakes of cloud in a 
sunset sky, but specially so when the repetition is made 
with symmetry or order, as in the facade of a Greek 
temple, or the rows of columns in a church. Architec- 
ture indeed is the most readily accessible means of 
introducing an element of repose into a composition. 
So generally has this been recognised that nearly all 
good decorative paintings, from classical times to our 
own day, have an architectural setting or an architectural 
background. Where architecture is absent, vertical re- 
flection in water that is still or nearly so, the level 
horizons formed by the sea or by a distant plain, serve 
a similar purpose. The work of the Italian painters of 
the fifteenth century will suggest countless examples. 

One form of figure composition, however, must be 
mentioned which gets the effect of repose, of order and 
succession, out of the figures themselves. It may be 
termed processional composition, and may be illustrated 
by the long rows of standing saints who make such 
splendid decoration in S. Apollinare Nuovo at Ravenna, 
by the groups of upright figures in the frescoes of 
Giotto, Angelico and other great early Italian Masters, 
by the tall ladies who walk side by side in the prints 
of Kiyonaga and Outamaro, or by the Entombment as 


etched by Rembrandt or painted by Blake. Among 
modern masters, Rossetti and Burne Jones have used 
it the most freely and effectively in England, and Puvis 
de Chavannes in France. 

A very small proportion of vertical and horizontal 
lines is quite enough to give an effect of repose to any 
picture of moderate size, and it is often far better to get 
repose in this way, than to get it by diluting the colour 
scheme or by weakening contrasts of light and shade. 
The use of a more or less symmetrical plan, as we 
have already seen, will also assist this effect of order 
and restfulness. 

The most dangerous of all methods, however, of 
aiming at repose is by rounding off masses and edges, 
and generally substituting gentle curves for square and 
firm shapes. Stiffness and angularity, it is true, are 
not pleasant qualities in art, yet they have a certain 
manly strength and vigour, while the softness which 
comes of too much rounding off corners, and too much 
searching for grace and suavity, is but. a bastard and 
meretricious quality that leads inevitably to the repose 
of languor, emptiness and impotence, instead of to the 
nobler repose that implies strength kept well in hand. 

When therefore we read of egg-shaped and elliptical 
compositions, even though they be backed with such 
names as Claude and Turner and Corot, we must never 
forget that the effect of these designs, where it happens 
to be fine, depends on the rectilinear forms they contain 


and not upon their sweeping curves. It is because 
Claude had not time to work out these curves in his 
sketches from nature that his sketches are so generally 
superior to his finished paintings. Turner's fondness 
for architecture saves him again and again from the 
same form of weakness, and Corot's best designs are 
those which have the most straight lines in them. 

In figure painting Raphael was the fatal example? 
although, in almost all that he did with his own hand, 
the rounded curves of the figures and the draperies are 
contrasted with level ground, upright trees or archi- 
tecture. It is from want of this contrast of straight 
lines that the celestial figures in the Transfiguration 
look as if they were dancing. For the same reason 
Parmigiano's large altar-piece in the National Gallery 
looks empty and artificial. 

That a certain degree of suavity and grace is 
pleasurable in pictorial design no one would be 
austere enough to deny. Yet to search for it, or to 
encourage it, seems to be a dangerous habit that grows 
with use, and has ruined many masters of great original 
talent. The peril is the more insidious because suavity 
seems to become a trick of hand, by which the brush 
works in a series of fluent connected sweeps, while the 
brain and the eye, even in the presence of nature, 
remain idle. 

The etchings of Rembrandt, if examined chrono- 
logically, are a striking illustration of the way in 


which that great master gradually shook himself free 
from the rounded designs he had learned from his 
early teachers, and adopted the architectural schemes 
on which the great plates of his maturity are constructed. 
If we also can keep the main lines of our compositions 
architectural in character, we shall at least be on the 
safe side so far as the quality of repose is concerned. 


THE general surface arrangement of a picture having 
been discussed, we have now to consider what the relative 
measurements of the parts should be, and what propor- 
tion each should bear to the whole composition. If 
the reasonableness of a painting may be said to depend 
upon its general plan, its decorative effect may to a 
large extent be considered as dependent upon its 
spacing. Yet spacing is one of the qualities ot which 
only a small proportion of our painters seem to think, 
in spite of the recent example of Whistler. The best 
living masters of the art of spacing are a few painters 
who have designed posters, and the equally small body 
which bases its efforts upon study of the great Italians* 
and the great Dutchmen. 

We may note here that, quite apart from the relative 
spacing of the masses inside a picture, we have also 
to consider the space which the picture itself must 

* Mr. Berenson's well-known handbook on " The Central 
Italian Painters of the Renaissance ' contains an illuminating study 
of the talent of the Umbrian masters for this " space-composition," 



cover in order to do perfect justice to its subject. 
A small reproduction of a large composition like 
Raphael's Parnassus, however accurate, will never have 
the breadth and dignity of the original. Raphael's 
exquisite little Vision of a Knight, on the other hand, 
would look empty were it enlarged to life size. We 
feel instinctively that the scale of Chardin and Terborch, 
of De Hooghe and Vermeer and Metsu, suits their 
modest genre, far better than the life size scale of a 
Spanish bodegone piece (even if it be by Velasquez 
himself), of our modern Royal Academy realism, or of 
the Scotch followers of Whistler. 

If certain subjects are so great that even a vast wall 
is not too large for their adequate treatment, we may be 
tolerably sure that the artists who are strong enough 
to conceive such things will also be wise enough to 
know how they must be painted. In the present day 
for one picture that might well have been painted on a 
large canvas, a hundred, nay a thousand are produced 
which would look infinitely better if they were a quarter 
of their present size. Exhibition rivalry and (though 
the lesson of the auction room is the exact contrary) the 
popular confusion of size with value, are no doubt 
largely responsible for this megalomania ; but are 
-painters really any more to blame than authors or 
politicians for risking vacuity to obtain advertisement ? 

There can be no real doubt as to the scale into which 
the true artist will cast his sword. The compressing 


of much matter into a small canvas, if a fault, is a venial 
fault compared with its opposite working on too 
large a scale which must inevitably result in dilution, 
weakness, and vacancy. There are few subjects for 
which a single square yard of canvas in the hands of a 
master is not enough ; among those chosen by modern 
artists there are fewer still for which one or two square 
feet would not be ample. 

Unity can be secured by spacing only in one way 
namely by providing that the prominent spaces or 
masses in a picture are not exactly equal. In pro- 
cessional compositions indeed, the separate figures 
may be of about equal importance, but the real question 
of spacing that is involved in such designs is one of 
the relative proportion between the figures taken all 
together and their background. 

The spacing of a picture then must always be so 
arranged that we cannot be in doubt as to which is the 
principal mass and which are the subordinate ones. 
By the masters of the sixteenth, seventeenth, and 
eighteenth centuries this argument was extended 
mathematically to the subordinate masses, so that 
painters had not only a primary and predominant light 
but also a second, a third, a fourth and a fifth in a 
regular sequence of diminishing importance. The idea 


may be theoretically correct, but in practice it hampers 
talent. The mere effort to make pictures conform to 
such a rule as this must deprive them of freshness and 
naturalness, and these are really of more importance 
than any minor details. Such things may well be left 
to good taste. The great thing is to get the main 
divisions of a picture settled in the way which suits the 
subject-matter best. 

There are several recipes to this end with which 
students can experiment, especially in such compara- 
tively simple matters as the place to be occupied by 
the horizon, or the skyline which in most out-door 
subjects determines the broad divisions of light and 
dark. Artists often place the horizon one third of the 
way up the picture, thus giving the sky two thirds of the 
space, and the ground one third. Such a rule would be 
more generally useful if horizons were always flat, and 
were unbroken by objects or figures rising above 

In practice the irregular shape of the masses and, 
frequently, the indeterminate nature of their outlines, 
makes any mechanical measurement of such proportion 
impossible. We are driven at last to judge of the 
relative size of the masses by the eye alone, and only 
by constant practice and observation can we train our 
vision to avoid instinctively the awkward results pro- 
duced by equality of mass. The fault often steals upon 
us insidiously. A very slight alteration in working 


from an effective sketch, is quite enough to destroy the 
balance of parts on which the effect depended, and to 
make the finished picture an undecided thing, at which 
we have to look again and again before being able to 
discover which is the real dominant quantity. 


Directly this question becomes possible the picture is 
in some degree imperfect, for it has lost the sense of 
vitality which is communicated to us by a forcible and 
striking statement. If the spacing of a picture is to be 
thus striking and forcible, it must not only be definite 
in character but must have in it some element of the 
unusual. The works of the artists of China and Japan are 
full of examples of such novel disposition. Frequently 
indeed, it is carried by them to lengths which seem to 
us fantastic or capricious, yet in no other works perhaps 
is vitality so constantly and so powerfully felt. In the 
same way, the works of Goya, which are among the 
most lively of European productions, are also among 
the most capriciously spaced. 

Pleasure in such bold spacing prevents us from 
thinking Hobbema's Avenue to be formal, or De Hooch's 
Dutch courtyards to be tame: it gives distinction to 
Crome's Windmill, and enlarges the little Cmcifixion by 
Andrea dal Casragno to heroic dimensions. Mantegna 



and Rembrandt, Veronese and Tiepolo afford numerous 
examples of how this form of emphasis may be nobly 

Perhaps, however, its effects are most noticeable in 
the works of men whose other gifts are moderate, but 
who rise, in virtue of this single quality, to something 
like real greatness, as Perugino does in his best works, 
such as the fresco in Sta. Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi. 
Indeed, when a subject is in itself somewhat tame, a 
proper use of forcible spacing is perhaps the best of 
all devices for turning it into a good picture. The 
works of Whistler show how little material is really 
needed to make a fine work of art, provided only that 
the spacing is well and boldly planned. Watts's noble 
picture of Jacob and Esau enforces the same lesson. 
Here we have only two figures meeting in an empty 
landscape, but so deftly are they placed within the 
picture space, so grandly do they dominate the 
horizon, that we are compelled to recognise at once 
that this is no ordinary meeting, and that the personages 
are no ordinary men. The works of Millet and Puvis 
de Chavannes might also be instanced. 

The general absence of this quality is one of the 
causes which make the work of the seventeenth- 
century eclectic schools seem so dull and lifeless, and 
gives, by contrast, such charm to an occasional excep- 
tion, like Andrea Sacchi's Vision of St. Romuald in the 


Paintings with the intense ubiquitous vigour of a 
Rubens do not of course stand in need of much 
assistance from spacing, but when a painter's sense of 
vitality is not strong, as with Claude when painting in 
oil, he cannot dispense with bold spacing without 
incurring the reproach of tameness. Claude, to do 
him justice, spaces his admirable drawings with 
singular freedom, and so preserves in them a life and 
freshness that are rarely seen in his oil pictures. 


The proportion of the masses in a picture must not 
only be unusual and striking. It must also be subtle, 
so that the ratio of the masses to each other is not 
readily apprehended by the eye. 

To divide a picture into two equal halves, either 

horizontally or vertically, is recognised as absurd even 

by beginners. Yet in text-books on art it is not 

uncommon to find recommendation of the principle we 

have mentioned, of placing the horizon in a landscape 

at one third of the total height of the canvas. A rule 

which leaves the two chief masses, the earth and the 

sky, in such an easily recognised proportion as 1 : 2 

seems only a stage removed from equal division* 

Proportions less readily measured by the eye, such as 

2:3 or 3:4, would be infinitely better ; indeed the 

latter is very frequently used by good composers 


The question resolves itself in the end, like most other 
questions of the kind, into one of fitness. The solution 
of each problem in proportion is determined by the 
particular kind of pictorial emphasis that the subject 
and the occasion demand. 

Those who find themselves interested by the subject, 
may speculate as to the significance of the cryptic 
phrase with which the saying attributed to Michelangelo 
concludes, " a figure should be pyramidal, serpentine, 
and multiplied by one two and three" Hogarth after 
quoting the last words and referring to their import- 
ance, omits to give any explanation of their meaning. 
Probably the study of fine examples of architecture 
would, in practice, be more advantageous than abstract 
mathematical inquiry, for there measurement is easy, 
and the question is not complicated by the irregularities 
of contour which, in the case of painting, often render 
the use of a foot-rule impossible. The student of the 
subject may be encouraged by the fact that the great 
masters without exception developed this faculty gradu- 
ally, and that their late works are almost uniformly 
more subtle in their proportions than are their early 

The common practice of surrounding a sketch with 
pieces of paper, and noting the changes effected by 
shifting them so that the proportions are continually 
altered, can be strongly recommended as a simple means 
of training the eye. Incidentally too, it \\ ill prove that 


there is no single formula for spacing, but that each 
effect has its own appropriate set of proportions. 


The element of repose in spacing is more easily dealt 
with. Repose may be obtained by leaving a certain 
portion of the picture space blank, or nearly blank. 
The larger the space so left, the more quiet and restful 
will the spirit of the work become. With the earlier 
masters both of Italy and Flanders this quiet is usually 
secured by a background of tranquil sky. Velasquez 
carries the search for repose to an extreme point, so 
that not only have his portraits a simple setting of floor 
and empty wall, but even the figures themselves are as 
flatly and broadly treated as possible. Hence comes 
the air of gravity by which his portraits are distin- 
guished. Where turbulence is aimed at, as in many of 
Rubens's figure subjects, the empty spaces vanish. 
The methods of Constable and Whistler show a similar 
contrast. In the landscapes of Constable, the fitful 
movements of the wind and flickering sunlight require 
for their suggestion the filling of every inch of the 
picture with spots of detail ; the tranquil effects 
of Whistler demand a large preponderance of almost 
vacant space. 

We must beware, however, in trying to obtain re- 
pose, lest we dilute our spacing till the effect becomes 


empty. Every design has a scale that suits it exactly. 
If carried out on a smaller scale it will seem confined 
and compressed ; if carried out on a larger scale it will 
seem thin and vacuous. Of the two faults the former 
is commonly the less hurtful, in that it does suggest a 
certain pleasurable fulness of content, quite apart from 
such advantages as portability. A design carried out 
on too large a scale may be restful but, if it is also 
empty and cumbrous, and perhaps executed with the 
coarseness of touch which a large scale encourages, its 
merits have been gained by too heavy a sacrifice. 


WE have hitherto discussed the position of the masses 
of a picture so far as they affect its surface planning. 
We have now to consider their arrangement in the 
world created by the picture; the relative distance 
from the eye which each is intended to suggest, and the 
system on which this fictitious recession can be dis- 
posed. The subject was much studied in the past by 
painters who had to deal with a number of figures, 
since it was universally recognised that absence of plan 
led to confusion, and the simple placing of all the 
figures on the same plane tended to archaic stiffness. 
The principles of this kind of arrangement are however 
so closely related to those of the general planning of a 
picture that they do not call for lengthy discussion. 

The space represented within the four sides of a 
picture frame or mount may, for practical purposes, be 
compared to a long room which we see from a window 



at one end. The effect of perspective causes all lines 
at right angles to the plane of our vision to tend to 
meet at the centre of the horizon opposite to us, as the 
cornices and skirting boards of our imaginary room 
would do. We have only to imagine the room of great 
height, width, and infinite length to see that the walls, the 
ceiling, and the floor will form triangles with a common 
apex. In painting we have to work as if the walls of 
this imaginary room were made of glass, and we could 
see a certain distance outside them, but the objects 
immediately in front of our picture foreground will 
recede in the same triangular form as that assumed by 
the floor of our room when seen in perspective. 

If then we desire to secure the greatest possible 
effect of unity in a picture, we shall see that the objects 
it represents are arranged on some such triangular plan. 
It does not matter much how irregular the triangle is ; 
its sides may be curved into a semi-circle, or further, 
extended to form an ellipse, the principle remains the 
same. If one side be developed fully, as it would be if 
we were painting a range of mountains retiring in 
perspective, or a view along the edge of a wood, or the 
side of a row of buildings, a very small object on the 
opposite side of the picture will give the needed balance 
and complete our imaginary triangle. 

The great thing is to avoid the doubling of the triangle, 
by an arrangement which leads the eye inwards to two 
separate points. We are then placed like a spectator 


at the angle where two galleries meet, who can look 
down both of them. In practical life such a position is 
often serviceable ; in pictures it leads to a division of 
interest which is just the reverse. 

A word may be added as to the place of the principal 
object in such a scheme. In landscape this is frequently 
in the distance or mid-distance, although a prominent 
object in the foreground, such as a tree, may serve as a 
repoussoir, to give relief to things farther away and to 
provide the real focus of interest with some support 
or counterpoise. Yet this repoussoir must not be too 
attractive. A ship for example, if painted with any 
care, is so complicated and so interesting an object that 
if placed near the foreground it is apt to become the 
principal feature of the composition, while the back- 
ground, however intrinsically interesting, takes second 
place. In sea-pieces ships, when placed near the fore- 
ground, are commonly made the chief subject, while 
when we come to foreground figures, the interest of 
which is greater still than that of ships, the background 
tends to become even more subordinate. In a figure- 
piece then the figures may naturally occupy the fore- 
ground and, however forcibly we paint the objects 
Behind them, the figures will rarely lose their 

The greatest difficulty of treating these problems of 
recession occurs in landscape. There the main subject 
is frequently the distance and, if the tones of it are at 


all delicate, we have to be specially careful not to 
crush them by a too forcible or interesting foreground. 
It is for this reason that sketches, in which the fore- 
ground is left unfinished, are so generally superior in 
effect to the most highly finished pictures. 


Yet if taken too literally this principle of triangular 
recession would give us very stiff and formal arrange- 
ments. To endow it with life it must be varied by 
serpentine or undulating lines. The objects in a 
picture will thus have a tendency to recede with 
alternate movements to this side or that, as do the 
indented flanks of a mountain, the lines of a winding 
road, or the curves of a river. 

The work of Raphael in its various stages will serve 
to illustrate the development of these modes of reces- 
sion. In his earlier works, such as the Vision of a 
Knight and the Ansidei Madonna in the National 
Gallery, the figures are placed side by side as in the 
pictures of his master Perugino. When on coming to 
Rome he had to group a large number of figures for 
the first time, as in the Disputd, they are arranged in the 
form of semi-circles receding from the spectator. In 
the later frescoes, such as the School of Athens and the 
Expulsion of Heliodorus, this general form is still pre- 
served, but is concealed by an artful irregularity in the 


disposition of the groups, all of which deviate on one 
side or another from a regular geometrical plan. The 
Disputd in consequence has a somewhat formal look, in 
comparison with the movement and vitality suggested 
by the undulating ground plan of these later frescoes. 
It is chiefly however in large decorative works, con- 
taining numerous figures, that artifice has to be used 
thus deliberately. In pictures of average size the 
chief objects or figures are not numerous and, in 
landscape especially, may be widely separated ; yet 
they must be arranged with as much system as if 
they were really connected by subordinate groups. 
The placing of the ships, boats, and buoys in 
Turner's sea-pieces will illustrate in how many 
pleasant ways the eye may be led away from the fore- 
ground by the alternate disposition of isolated objects, 
no two of which are at the same distance from the eye, 
or fail to suggest by their relation to their neighbours 
the sinuous curves from which we derive the sense of 


The sense of infinity, so far as the arrangement of 
the planes of recession is concerned, is conveyed by 
the subtle artifices, the variations from strict rule, by 
which the general plan is enriched and concealed. 

The minor painters of Holland often fail in this matter 
They arrange their figures and pots and pans with 


such admirable system that they are always quoted as 
examples to students, because their methods are so 
obvious. Now it is just in escaping from this ap- 
pearance of deliberate arrangement that the merit of 
a great artist shows. A composition by De Hooch 
for example is admirably planned, but the things and 
persons of which it is made up all seem to have come 
together of themselves, and to have been caught by 
the artist in an instant of felicitous conjunction. 

A comparison of Rembrandt's later paintings and 
etchings with those of his early years, indicates with 
how much labour he freed himself from the artificial 
completeness of his earlier designs, and how the 
profundity of his insight developed in exact ratio with 
his emancipation. The landscape work of Hokusai 
excels that of the more realistic Hiroshige for just the 
same reason [quite apart from its immense imaginative 
and executive superiority], the schemes on which it is 
framed being more deftly concealed. 

In the case of the painters of the English School, 
it might be pointed out how the rich shadows of 
Reynolds, the broken touch of Gainsborough, the 
drifting mists of Turner, and the flickering lights of 
Constable, all in their respective ways and degrees, 
enable the artists who employ them to disguise the 
plan of their pictures, and thereby to give them that 
sense of mystery and infinity to which a great part 
of their attractiveness is due. The extraordinary 


minuteness of certain Pre-Raphaelite pictures, and the 
vibrant atmosphere of the best Impressionist work 
have a similar effect, but ordinary modern pictures 
which are either precise without overwhelming wealth 
of detail, or rough without really possessing the power 
of suggesting air and light, miss this sense of infinity 

In portraits and figure-pieces the effect of infinite 
space is much influenced by the quality of the back- 
ground, mysterious recession and atmosphere being 
suggested by broken tones and vibrant quality in the 
paint. In landscape spaciousness is still more im- 
portant, and much of the good landscape of the world 
thus resolves itself into a sky and a distance, supported 
or relieved by some sort of a foreground. This fore- 
ground, as we have said, is always a source of difficulty, 
and some artists, like Corot, have evaded its tendency 
to obtrusiveness, by including in their pictures nothing 
that was less than two or three hundred yards away 
from their easels. This device might possibly be ex- 
tended. Many of the most delightful landscapes in the 
world are to be found in the backgrounds of figure- 
paintings by the old masters, and these landscapes 
lose none of their charm when isolated from their 
setting, It is conceivable that a painter might take a 
hint from these works, and experiment with landscapes 
in which what would be the middle distance for other 
painters was used as a foreground. As the middle 


distance and distance of a landscape usually contain its_ 
most exquisite and mysterious colouring, such a 
practice might, in capable hands, produce many novel 
and enchanting effects. 


Repose of interior plan, like repose of surface plan, 
seems to depend largely upon the presence of hori- 
zontal or vertical surfaces in the area included by the 
picture. These surfaces need not be large in extent if 
the position they occupy is a prominent one, and the 
other masses of the picture are not tumultuous in 
character. The Conversion of St. Bavon by Rubens 
in the National Gallery is as vigorous and mobile in 
design and execution as almost any picture could be, 
yet the introduction of a comparatively small mass of 
architecture in the background is enough to prevent 
the effect from being violent, while the impression 
left by such tours de force as his Fall of the Damned at 
Munich is unpleasant simply because we see a mass of 
huddled figures without any such background to serve 
as a relief. The Venetian masters were specially 
fortunate in their use of architecture, or the level 
surface of a great plain, or of the sea, as a foil to their 
richly clad figures. Rembrandt's large etching, Christ 
Presented to the People, and the works of the great Dutch 
painters of interiors, show that an almost empty wall 
may be used in just the same way. 


THE arrangement of the light and dark masses in a 
picture will be governed by the same laws whether we 
use shadow, as European artists have done ever since 
the fifteenth century, to express the relief, the model- 
ling, the thickness and solidity of things ; or whether 
we dispense with shadow, as Oriental artists in general 
have done, and regard nature as a mosaic of flat 
patches of colour. It is in the matter of representa- 
tion, rather than in that of composition, that the two 
methods differ. 

All pictures may be broadly divided into masses of 
light,of middle tint, and of shadow. We may not always 
be able to distinguish the exact point where these pass 
into one another, but we can map them out approxi- 
mately, and so gain a tolerably accurate record of their 
arrangement in any particular work. 

This arrangement is a thing of the highest import- 
ance. It is this broad pattern of light and dark 
masses that first strikes the eye when we look at 
a picture, and those who have to look at many pictures 



learn to rely upon this pattern as an almost infallible 
test of pictorial merit, long before the subject, treatment, 
and details can be clearly apprehended. 


For this patchwork of light and dark masses to have 
unity its constituents must blend into a single mass. 
That mass may be full of complicated details but, it 
any portion of it stands out so prominently from the 
rest as to look like a blot or stain upon the picture, 
the work is at fault. 

Again, if the light and shade are so massed that the 
picture seems to be divided into two nearly equal 
halves, and the eye cannot readily settle which is the 
dominant half, the effect of unity has once more been 
missed, and the work is at fault. 

The first of these conditions may be termed unity of 
tone, the second unity of mass. 

It is clear that unity of tone will be most readily 
produced in pictures where the prevailing tone is one 
of middle tint, upon which neither extreme of light or 
darkness can tell as a spot. 

Where the prevailing tone tends to be light, the high 
lights may be forced as much as the artist pleases, they 
will never tell as definite spots. Dark masses, on the 
other hand, will stand out sharply from the light 
ground, and will have to be most carefully placed and 


blended with it, to prevent them from looking like blots 
or patches. 

The fresco paintings of the early cinquecento masters, 
or the work of Puvis de Chavannes, will give countless 
examples of the successful use of a light key without 
the contrast of strong masses of dark colour. A light 
key indeed is almost a necessity in true decorative 

Further, as easel pictures increase in size, they 
approach the condition of mural painting and must 
therefore be governed by similar laws. A large easel 
picture, then, needs to be lighter in key than a small 
one, and should contain less forcible oppositions of 
dark masses, if its effect is to be pleasant. 

The practice of painting easel pictures in a light key 
was the custom from the earliest ages until the use 
of oil painting became general and painters were 
fascinated by its deep transparent shadows. Then for 
some centuries pictures showed a preponderance of 
middle tint or of darkness, until the art of using oils in 
a light key was invented by Rubens and Claude and 
carried to completion by Turner. 

In the brilliant key of his mature style, even Turner's 
darks are apt to tell as spots, although in arranging 
them, and in blending them with the ground, he displays 
consummate skill. The Impressionists avoid the 
difficulty by having no darks at all ; but, as paintings 
pure and simple, their works lack the variety and 



force of Turner's glowing canvases, for this very 

In a sketch, the placing of the dark masses and the 
fusing of them with the picture scheme should not 
give any serious trouble ; but in a large easel picture 
where the general tone is light, the treatment of the 
contrasting points of darkness calls for no little care 
and experience. On a very large scale, even the 
deepest darks will have to be of but moderate intensity ; 
on a small scale, a very sharp contrast need not be un- 
pleasant. Tintoret's great Paradise in the Ducal Palace 
would cease to be spotty and confused were its darkest 
tones of half their present intensity: in a little 
etching by Rembrandt, the most vigorous opposition of 
rich black ink to white paper does not irritate the eye. 

Conversely, when the general tone of a picture is 
dark, the lights will show strongly. To preserve unity 
we must be careful that they blend with the ground, 
and are carefully placed and proportioned. Any light 
which does not at some point blend softly with the 
ground will attract the eye by telling as a spot. Such 
sharp lights should therefore appear, if at all, close to 
the focus of interest, as when white linen flashes out 
close to the head of a portrait. 

A sharp light in any other part of the picture will 
distract the attention, and so should only be used with 
the definite purpose of balancing a more powerful light, 
which would otherwise seem isolated. Where for in- 


stance a strong light is concentrated upon the head of 
a portrait, a touch of sharp light on a cuff, or on a 
paper held in the hand, will prevent the head from 
being in theatrical isolation. 

To render this balance successful such subsidiary 
lights must be carefully placed ; they must also be care- 
fully proportioned, both in number and extent, to the 
size of the picture and the feeling it is intended to con- 
vey. If they are small and numerous the effect will be 
spotty ; if they are few and considerable they may 
compete with the principal mass of light, and the result 
will be confusion. The eclectic masters of the seven- 
teenth century will provide a sufficiency of examples 
of failure from these causes. The portraits of Van 
Dyck or of Reynolds on the other hand might be quoted 
to illustrate the numerous ways in which success may 
be attained. 

In a picture where the prevailing tone is neither 
dark nor light both high lights and darks will tell with 
moderate effect, each fusing somewhat easily with the 
ground. The use of a dominant middle tint may 
therefore be serviceable where the subject itself tends 
to be rather disconnected, as in complicated figure 
pieces, and in certain types of landscape. The pictures 
and drawings of Gainsborough will seive as examples. 

When there is but little middle tint the picture will 
consist of two rather strongly contrasted tones, and the 
effect will tend to he spotty if the masses are numerous, 


empty if they are few. If darkness predominates the 
effect will be heavy : if light predominates the effect 
will be weak. The general remedy in such cases 
would seem to be the reduction of the contrasts until 
the picture, as a whole, tells as middle tint. If this tint 
inclines to be light, as it may do in pictures where an 
effect of luminosity is required, even sharp lights will 
blend easily with the ground, and the chief question 
will be the management of the shadows. If the tint 
inclines to be dark, the shadows will prove easy to 
manage, but the lights will need special care. 

The one thing necessary is to fuse light and 
shade and middle tint into a homogeneous mass. An 
instructive method of study is to examine the develop- 
ment of a line engraving through a series of trial 
proofs, such as may frequently be found in good print 
collections. To landscape painters the prints after 
Turner's drawings should be specially instructive. 
There we can see the reproduction begin with a bare 
statement of broad masses, hard at the edge and with- 
out any detail, and watch stage by stage the addition 
of the gradations, half-tones and refinements, by 
which the effect is gradually softened, enriched and 


Vitality may be very effectively suggested in a 
painting through light and shadow by means of a 


well-ordered contrast : the most forcible of all oppo- 
sitions being obtained when the brightest light in a 
painting is brought into contact with the most intense 
passage of darkness. 

Yet this forcible contrast must be employed with 
caution or it will be destructive of breadth of effect. 
Reynolds has pointed out in his eighth Discourse that 
this rule of opposing light to shadow, as given by 
Leonardo da Vinci, is one of which the absolute 
authority should last only during the painter's student- 
ship. " If Leonardo," says he, " had lived to see the 
superior splendour and effect which has been produced 
by the exactly contrary conduct by joining light to 
light and shadow to shadow though without doubt 
he would have admired it, yet . . . probably it would 
not be the first rule with which he would have begun 
his instruction." Contrast in short is necessary to 
effectiveness but, if it be pressed to the exclusion of 
breadth, it will be unpleasant. 

The principal figure in a painting, the chief centre 
of interest, may be easily accentuated by the use of a 
strong contrast of light and darkness, but the device 
must be employed with caution. If used without 
forethought the result will be too obvious, and will 
seem theatrical, as it does in the case of some of 
Rembrandt's pupils, or in the popular drawings of 
Gustave Dore". 

Clever men like Prout often make the mistake of 


concentrating the highest light and deepest dark on 
little figures inserted to give relief and balance, with the 
result that the eye is attracted to these conventional 
mannikins, and the effect of the chief masses is over- 
looked. On the other hand, if the contrast is concealed 
or modified by too many flashes of light or spaces of 
darkness in other parts of the picture, the total effect 
is apt to be spotty and confused. 

Safety lies between these two extremes. In por- 
traiture we may notice how Titian, Van Dyck and 
Velasquez repeat the contrast of light and shadow on 
their sitters' heads, by one or two subordinate contrasts 
of light on the hands or on some accessory. The great 
Dutch painters of genre show similar skill, admitting 
perhaps two or three minor contrasts to the principal 
one; whereas our modern realists are in the habit of 
leaving these things to chance, and have usually far 
more spots and dots of light and dark in their painting 
than is conducive to harmonious effect, though the 
result may gain thereby a certain look of vivacity. 

A certain proportion and order must, in fact, be 
employed in the use of contrast, or the painter may 
defeat his own ends. In a small portrait the flash of 
light in the eyes may be enough to convey the sense 
of life : in a large painting the machinery must be more 
complicated. As diagonal lines convey the feeling of 
life and motion, so a diagonal disposition of contrast 
tends to produce the same effect with light and dark- 


ness. The arrangement of the squares of a chess- 
board erected on one of its sides, may thus be taken 
as a type of the arrangement of light and shade in a 
picture where an effect of vitality is desired. 

By keeping this alternation constantly in mind we 
obtain also a balance of parts which we can get in no 
other way If we can imagine a picture as divided 
into a number of vertical sections by lines extending 
from the top to the bottom, a good general rule is to 
ensure that none of these sections shall consist 


entirely of unbroken light or unbroken darkness. 


Although the suggestion of infinity in a picture 
may be aided and emphasised in many different ways, 
it is, perhaps, most readily produced by means of light 
and shade. When shadows are filled with vague 
reflected lights, or when the lights themselves are 
varied and clouded with faint shadows, the objects in a 
picture do not proclaim themselves at once, but leave 
room for the play of the imagination in filling up the 
parts that are obscured. 

The secret of Rembrandt's art is often supposed to 
lie in the subtlety with which the masses of light and 
darkness are arranged in his work ; a supposition which 
has ruined most of his followers and imitators. 
Some absurd examples will be found in Burnet's book 


The real secret lies not so much in the arrangement 
of the masses as in their quality. In Rembrandt's 
early works shadows are indeed used to suggest and 
emphasise form, to give prominence to a figure or a 
feature, to make things look solid, round and real, or to 
define their place in the picture scheme. But with 
experience he found that he could rely upon his 
drawing to give all the solidity he needed, that the 
excessive use of shadow as a means of relief made his 
compositions look artificial or spotty, and that a better 
effect was produced when shadow was used broadly, as 
a means of suggesting the vibration and subtlety of 
atmospheric tone, and for rendering those delicacies of 
modelling on which all refined and profound expression 
depends, So in all Rembrandt's mature work shadow 
is used as a veil, softening outlines which would 
otherwise have looked harsh, suggesting the play of 
nature s light upon illumined surfaces, and the mystery 
of nature's darkness where the illumination was faint. 
Mutatis mutandis the method is the same as that 
employed by a great sculptor, who fills his work with 
passages of modelling so tender that we seem to feel 
them rather than to see them, the same as that 
employed by Leonardo when depicting one of his 
mysteriously smiling faces, by Gainsborough when 
building up a world of romance with an apparently 
careless brush, or by Turner creating a world of 
palpitating sunlight in which all material things are 


half revealed and half hidden. To most painters the 
full charm of this use of shadow is revealed only 
by long experience. Rembrandt, Gainsborough, and 
Turner were all hard and precise workers in their 
youth ; so too was Titian. It is only in extreme old 
age that he paints such things as the Madrid Entomb- 
ment and the Venice Pieta. 

Nevertheless, even in Titian's early work, we find a 
deliberate attempt to escape both from the hardness 
that comes with a too sharp definition of lights and 
shadows, and impairs the work of such artists as 
Poussin, and also from the spottiness which comes 
from using dark shadows as a means of relief, which 
impairs the work of Tintoret and ruins that of the 
Bolognese. Titian has not yet conceived of light and 
shade as a delicate veil of varied tone over the whole 
picture surface, but he has recognised that if a light or 
shadow must have a sharp and cutting edge where 
definition is urgently needed, it must invariably merge 
softly into the ground elsewhere , 

No light or shadow in fact ever tells as a sharply 
defined patch in Titian's work except where he requires 
special emphasis. The lights if examined will always 
be found to have a delicate half-tone at one edge, which 
connects them with the tone adjoining them : the 
shadows at some point or other will merge imper- 
ceptibly into a lighter tone. The play of sharp edge 
and soft gradation thus produced, in itself conveys 


something of the mystery and infinity of the shadow 
used in Rembrandt's fashion, but not all. Reynolds in 
most of his portraits inclines to Titian's early method, 
and his work has thus a slightly more solid and 
positive quality than that of Gainsborough who, as we 
have seen, inclines to the looser, more vibrant and more 
suggestive breadth of Rembrandt. 

It is on this ground that we may account for the 
general superiority of effects in which light masses are 
relieved from a dark ground, to those in which dark 
masses are relieved from a light one. In nature these 
last are often exceedingly powerful, as when objects are 
seen silhouetted against a bright evening sky: when 
such effects are rendered in paint they usually look 
cheap and superficial. The reason seems to lie in the 
fact that the dark masses do not afford much scope for 
play of light and shadow, and also separate too 
obviously and uniformly from the light masses. 

By keeping the darker masses comparatively light in 
tone, as Turner did, and by fusing them where possible 
with the sky behind, these difficulties may be much 
reduced. The vigour of the original contrast will be 
sacrificed, but the gain in unity and subtlety of effect 
will more than counterbalance the loss. With light 
masses seen against a dark background such a 
sacrifice is unnecessary, and the later works of Rem- 
brandt show what force and what infinite variety may 
be thus produced. 



To obtain an effect of repose by the help of light and 
shade, it is necessary to reverse the devices used to 
produce vitality. Abrupt contrasts of light and darkness 
will either be avoided altogether, as was the practice of 
Whistler in some of his nocturnes and in portraits such 
as the Sarasate; or be modified and softened by ensuring 
that the large masses of light do not cut sharply 
against large masses of shadow, but are blended 
with them by an interposed middle tint, as was 
the practice of Gainsborough in his most perfect 
landscapes, and of Crome in such works as the 
Mousehold Heath. There the light upper sky fuses 
with slightly darker clouds, the clouds in their turn 
fuse with a still darker distance, and that tone in 
turn deepens, with the deepening shadow of the great 
rounded down, into the still darker masses of the 

Even where abrupt contrasts do occur, their effect 
will be reduced if the contrasting masses are small in 
proportion to the scale of the picture, and if the general 
tone be a middle tint with which both darks and lights 
combine readily. Turner's drawings in general afford 
countless examples of this last method, as do the 
paintings of the great artists of China and Japan of 
the former. The mounting of drawings and the 
framing of pictures could often be much improved, from 


the decorative point of view, if this principle were more 
completely understood. 

The size of the picture too is an important factor in 
the treatment of light and shade. In a miniature, or 
a very small painting or engraving, the strongest 
contrasts of dark and light do not oppress the eye. 
Enlarge them to the size of a mural painting and the 
result would be intolerable. In fact as the size of a 
work increases the more careful must we be to see that 
allowance is made for the quality of repose. Those 
who decorate buildings will be wise to adopt a scale of 
tones as limited as that used by Puvis de Chavannes ; 
while the miniature painter may pass abruptly from 
pure white to intense black without giving offence. 


EXPERIENCE seems to indicate that few or no painters 
who were not good colourists will stand the test of 
time. Yet most painters are content to leave the 
question of colour to chance, or at least to employ it 
without recognising the relation it should bear to the 
ideas they wish to express. In reality, the sentiment 
of a picture is emphasised as definitely by the colours 
in which it is painted as by its design. No picture 
can produce its complete effect unless its colour be in 
exact harmony with the emotional mood in which it is 

* An apology is due for the retention of the popular but, I believe, 
unscientific classification here adopted. My original notes were set 
down on the lines on which I had grown accustomed to think, and 
to try to recast them, except at more leisure than I can at present 
find, would only have led to confusion. As a matter of fact, the 
main conclusions arrived at are independent of chromatic classi- 
fication, so that the reader will not be seriously misguided. For 
want of sufficient acquaintance I am unable to discuss the system of 
Prof. Denman W. Ross, of Cambridge, U.S.A. His book, " A 
Theory of Pure Design" (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 
1907), is the most elaborate study of rhythm in colour and in pattern 
which has hitherto appeared 



If executed in the sombre tones of Rembrandt, the 
most sprightly panel by Fragonard would lose all its 
gaiety : Turner's Calais Pier would cease to be 
menacing if painted with the palette of the Ulysses 
and Polyphemus. Would Titian's superb Pieta in the 
Venice Academy move us so profoundly if it were fired 
with the radiant glow of the Bacchus and Ariadne ; or 
Piero della Francesca's Baptism, if its colour had the 
gentle beauty of Perugino's triptych on the opposite 
wall ? It is fantastic to think so. 

Yet painters of to-day seem, with but few exceptions, 
to be blind to this primary condition of their art. How 
few landscape painters, for example, in dealing with 
peaceful country scenery, recognise that the clashing ot 
red tiled roofs, green grass or trees, and bright blue 
sky is so violent as to destroy at once the effect of 
repose and harmony they are trying to secure ? A 
sepia sketch by Claude or Rembrandt conveys a feeling 
of quiet and serenity, and this will be retained by a good 
copy in monochrome. But let us assume the copyist 
to go a step further and, with the mistaken idea of 
"finishing" his picture, to paint the grass green, the 
sky blue and the houses red. The serenity of the 
original will be lost at once. 

As we are not attempting a scientific analysis, we 
may work on the common and convenient, though 
unscientific assumption that red, yellow, and blue are 
*he three primary colours. 


Of these red is generally admitted to be the most 
irritating in its effect. A spot of red is thus often used 
to enliven a picture, but red is seldom made the 
dominant hue in any but small works of art. Watts, 
it will be noticed, has used it lavishly in the Mammon 
where his wish was to emphasise cruelty. 

Yellow is a fresh exhilarating colour when approxi- 
mately pure as in the daffodil, the primrose, or in the 
effects of evening sunlight. Hence comes much of the 
pleasure we derive from Turner's mature work. 

Blue, again, is a fresh and tranquil colour. This 
character is most apparent in blues such as Prussian 
or turquoise blue, that are of a slightly greenish 
tinge. Quite pure blue is somewhat hard, while blues 
which (like French ultramarine) have the least tinge of 
red, tend to assume that colour's irritating qualities. 

The so-called secondary colours must next be con- 

The effect of purple is difficult to define. When rich 
and deep it is a noble colour ; when paler, as in mauve 
or lilac, it has the property of catching the eye strongly; 
but whether pale or deep it is a dangerous colour for 
the painter to use in any quantity, unless it is subdued 
in hue, and foiled with green or brown. It is thus 
employed with fine effect by the Pre-raphaelites. 
The moment, however, a picture in the least approxi- 
mates to purple in its general tone, its colour will 
Imost certainly be bad. 


Orange, again, from the nature of its constituents, 
red and yellow, can rarely be used in any considerable 
mass without the risk of violence. Even Turner, who 
was fond of orange, cannot always prevent it froir 
making his work look garish, and by the great 
Venetians it is never used except in moderation, and 
in connection with quieter colours such as green and 

Green, the remaining secondary colour, is more 
tractable. When nearly pure, and used in large 
masses, it may be as strident in effect as any other 
bright colour ; but clear greens, modified only by the 
very slightest tinge of brown, are often used by the 
early Flemish masters without unpleasantness, and 
even when still sharper in tone, as it is found in 
Millais's Qphelia and other Pre-raphaelite pictures, its 
effect may be no more than stimulating and refreshing. 
Dark green, however, is a heavy colour that needs 
very careful management, and light green may look 
sickly unless foiled with some warmer or darker 

The water-colour sketches of De Wint afford many 
examples of his skill in the use of dark greens, but 
even that skill does not always preserve him from 
heaviness in his finished work. The dreadful results 
produced by amateurs when they paint ivied buildings 
are sufficient proof of the difficulty De Wint had to 
face. Admirable examples of the use of light green 


will be found in Japanese colour-prints; those by 
Harunobu deserving special notice. 

The three tertiaries, brown, gray, and olive, remain 
to be considered, and their effects are naturally some- 
what akin to those of the primary colours that predomi- 
nate in their respective compositions. 

In brown, for example, we meet with red deprived of 
its irritant hotness by admixture with yellow and blue. 
It is thus warm and cheerful in effect, and for that 
reason it is frequently employed as a vehicle for 
monochrome work, and has been the usual foundation 
of all elaborate oil-painting up to the middle of the 
nineteenth century. 

In gray, blue is the predominant primary. The 
result is restful and cool, but may tend to coldness, if 
the scale be large and the blue tone pronounced. It 
has been frequently used for monochrome work, 
especially in landscape, from the readiness with which 
it suggests the general tone of the air. Its effect is 
more austere than that of brown, and it is therefore 
particularly well suited to the representation of grave 
and serious subjects. 

Olive, the remaining tertiary, is always a pleasant 
colour when used as a foil to stronger colours, but it is 
rarely used for monochrome, perhaps because, when so 
employed, it seems akin to green, and therefore raises 
unnatural associations in the mind if used to represent 
such things as the sky or the human face. 



We now come to black and white, which, if not true 
colours, are at least of the greatest use to the colourist, 
since besides acting as foils to all other colours they 
have very definite properties of their own. 

Black, by suggesting gloom and darkness, introduces 
a note of solemnity into any scheme of which it plays 
a considerable part. It has thus been a favourite with 
all the great portrait painters Its tone is rapidly 
modified by the atmosphere so that in landscape it 
is generally represented by gray. The omission of 
black from the palette of many modern painters (some 
of the great Impressionists among them) is perhaps 
responsible for the lack of grave and serious feeling 
which characterises their work as a whole, and may 
explain in part why most modern landscapes look their 
best in a photographic reproduction. 

The effect of pure white in a picture is not the exact 
reverse of the effect of black. It does not bring 
cheerfulness and luminosity into a colour-scheme, but 
conveys no sensation to the mind except that of cold 
immaculate purity. When it is used in any quantity, 
the coldness makes itself so strongly felt that the 
practice of all the great colourists has been to use pure 
white with the utmost parsimony. Instead they use 
very pale tones of colour, reserving pure white just for 
the points of supreme brightness. An examination of 
such a picture as Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne will 
explain this practice better than any verbal discussion 


From this brief analysis it will be seen at once that 
the general colour of a work of art decides what its 
sentiment is to be. The glowing russet and blue of 
Titian, the sombre browns and grays of Rembrandt, 
the gay tones of Rubens and Watteau, fix the temper of 
their subjects by the mere first impression they make 
upon the eye, long before we have time, to distinguish 
what the particular objects represented may be. 

All pictures then should have a dominant general 
colour-scheme in keeping with the sentiment they are 
intended to convey, and the various devices of the 
colourist must be exercised within the limits which that 
sentiment imposes. 


Our first inquiry must be how best to ensure that 
our colours will combine into a single united scheme : 
so that the effect of a picture is that of a harmonious 
whole, and not of a mere chance aggregate of con- 
flicting hues. 

The remarks of Reynolds on this subject seem to 
point the way more definitely than any theory put 
forward by scientific writers on the subject. These 
writers have never, I think, attained much distinction as 
artists, and, as a rule, their diagrams of harmonious 
colour refute by their unpleasantness the theories they 
are intended to illustrate. The truth is that, if any 
scientific principle of harmony and contrast of colour 


could be effectively stated, it would be of just so much 
service to the painter as a perfect theory of human 
proportion. It would serve as a mean or standard, 
from which the artist would constantly deviate in 
search of the emphasis proper to his subject; but a 
picture painted in exact accord with such a standard 
would have no more character than a picture built up 
wholly of figures conforming perfectly to some rigid 
canon of the ideal human form. What the artist 
really needs is some precept bearing directly on studio 
practice, which preserves harmony and yet admits of 
modification for purposes of emphasis. 

Reynolds enunciates the principle that the shadows 
of a picture should be of the same colour, and thereby 
form a connecting link between the hues ot the lights 
and the half-lights. The recipe is serviceable, but is 
somewhat limited in its application. It is naturally 
most effective when a large portion of a picture 
consists of shadow, as was usually the case with 
Reynolds himself, and with artists like Rembrandt. In 
light pictures it is less serviceable. There the shadows 
are apt to be too limited in extent, if not too faint as 
well, to have much binding power and the result 
may not be satisfactory, unless the various colours are 
united by some other bond. 

Another principle of Reynolds that the whites in a 
picture, and indeed the high lights in general, should 
be of a warm tinge, " as if illuminated by the setting 


sun," though valuable as a protection against the 
more harsh and chilly forms of bad colour, is also too 
limited in range to be of much practical service in 
producing fine colour consistently. The use of a 
brown varnish to " tone " cold or garish oil paintings 
has long been recognised : brightly coloured Japanese 
prints on the same principle are sometimes stained 
with coffee to make them more saleable, and many 
"Old Masters" are undoubtedly rendered more har- 
monious in effect by the mellowing influence of time 
and dirt. 

Much, however, of the finest colour in which we take 
pleasure is distinctly cool in quality and cannot be 
referred to this principle : nor can we always or often 
recognise the employment of the somewhat similar 
precept, attributed by tradition to Rubens, that colours 
should be arranged in definite sequence, beginning with 
white at the source of light, followed in turn by yellow, 
orange, red, and blue. 

A criticism by Reynolds, on a picture submitted to 
him by a young marine painter, contains the germ of a 
more vital truth. He observed that the picture lacked 
harmony because it was painted with too great a 
variety of colours, adding that a picture should look as 
if it was all painted from the same palette. 

There can be no doubt I think that Sir Joshua 
intended to convey, by this remark, the idea that safety 
lay in employing only one definite set of pigments on 


each picture. His own practice and that of Gains- 
borough certainly show that both these great colourists 
worked on some such principle. Both were masters of 
a considerable variety of methods and pigments, but 
they did not use them all together on a single canvas. 
For each new picture they employed just the few 
pigments sufficient to carry out the work in hand, and 
no more. Black and white, with one red, one yellow, 
one blue, and one brown make the palette from which 
their most splendid harmonies are drawn. In modern 
times the theory has been most emphatically restated 
by Whistler, without however receiving one tithe of 
the attention which it merited. 

If we turn to the sister art of ceramics, in which the 
most glowing and daring harmonies of colour known 
to us have been attained, we find that in Damascus 
ware and in Chinese porcelain the most splendid effects 
are produced with a similar limited palette. Never- 
theless the limitation is not the whole secret, for many 
modern coloured wares employ a small number of 
pigments, and yet are unpleasing to the eye. To find 
what these further conditions are, it may be well to 
take some form of art in which the growth, develop- 
ment and decline of the colour sense can be more or 
less definitely traced, as in the case of Japanese colour- 

Here a survey of the field shows that iteration of 
a few selected tints is a constant factor in success 


When the tints are very few, as in the early part of the 
eighteenth century, the results are charming but perhaps 
rather monotonous. When the number and subtlety 
of the tints is increased by Harunobu, Kiyonaga, and 
Utamaro, the process is perfected. When, at the end 
of the century, the Japanese artist was introduced to 
garish aniline colours, the effect has still a certain 
coherency, even though the individual tones are 
violent. The rigid iteration, which is a necessity of 
this Japanese method, still makes for unity even when 
the components are discordant, but complete success 
is attained only when the iteration is combined with 
fine quality of individual tints. 

How then does a pleasing tint differ from an un- 
pleasing one ? Is it not that it is never quite flat or 
quite positive ? Is it not in itself a little picture, in 
which two or more sets of colour atoms lie together 
side by side, and by their iterations produce that very 
effect of harmonious variety which the masses oi 
pigment in a picture produce upon a larger scale ? In 
any book of coloured papers the broken tints, such as 
those which pass under the name of granite, are 
invariably pleasanter to the eye than primary colours, 
or than tints immediately derived from them. 

Any colour, too, that is printed on a very smooth or 
shiny paper will be less pleasant than one printed on a 
" matt " or grained surface, simply because the irregu- 
larities of the surface in the latter case cast shadows, 


and bring a second and darker tone to play side by 
side with that originally printed. On a smooth paper 
the original tone has to depend entirely upon itself ; no 
secondary tint is formed by shadows, and the effect will 
tend to be flat and lifeless. The difference can be well 
studied by comparing a good colour-print on soft 
fibrous Japanese paper with the most elaborate repro- 
duction of one by lithography on smooth European 
paper. However carefully the individual tints have 
been matched, the difference in quality of hue is 

Having then good reason for suspecting that colour 
harmony depends upon the iteration of tints which 
themselves have a certain internal iteration or vibrancy, 
let us test our hypothesis upon the works of European 

Taking first the works of the primitive Flemings, of 
whom the Van Eycks and Memling are typical 
examples, we can see at once how their method of 
transparent painting over a white ground gives all 
their individual colours a degree of vibrancy, a gem- 
like brilliancy, which was never quite equalled by 
subsequent painters. 

Thus even in their portraits, where deliberate repeti- 
tion of tones was less possible than in a subject piece, 
the mere quality of the pigment is enough to convey a 
sense of harmonious colour. When we come to the 
work of a later master, Rubens, the colours are rather 


less perfectly transparent, but they are interchanged 
and repeated with much more science, so that the 
colour harmony is no less complete than in the earlier 
work, although it is pitched in a different key. 

It would be easy to quote similar examples from 
among the great Venetians, who rightly hold the first 
place as colourists among the various schools of Italy. 
It will however be enough to refer to the lavish use 
they make of patterned stuffs, in which repetition of 
colours is ever present, and to the peculiar glow and 
vibration of their pigments, the secret of which 
(probably depending upon the use of a tempera ground 
under the oil painting) has long been lost. 

To come to our own time, it will be noticed that the 
colour of the great Impressionists such as Monet, 
Sisley, and Degas, though exceedingly bright and 
daring, has also a certain unity of its own, due not 
only to the talent of the artists, but to the fact that all 
the individual tones are built up of interlaced patches 
of the primary colours. Repetition of these colours is 
necessarily carried through the whole picture. 

This repetition, of course, is characteristic of the 
colouring of outdoor nature. The shadows over a 
distant landscape reflect the colour of the sky and 
clouds above them ; sometimes so completely that the 
local colour is practically absorbed. When the sky is 
blue, and the clouds light and scattered, a cloud shadow 
often looks bright blue; if the clouds are numerous and 


purple, the very same piece of country will assume their 
purple hue, solely from the influence of the light re- 
flected from above, while in the foreground the upper 
surface of every leaf and blade of grass is tinged with 
the colour of the sky. A great part of the work of the 
Impressionists has been the study and emphatic state- 
ment of these reflections, and the public suspicion of 
their work would have been overcome long ago, had 
the truths they enunciate been expressed with less 
disdain for recognised pictorial quality. 

It is sometimes urged that, if colours are fine and 
vibrant in themselves, their arrangement does not 
matter. Such colours certainly may not be unpleasant 
in effect even if they are not deliberately repeated, but 
there can be no doubt that their power is immensely 
enhanced through the emphasis secured by intelligent 
repetition. The colour-prints of the minor Japanese 
are for this reason scattered and aimless in effect when 
compared with those of Harunobu, Kiyonaga, or 
Utamaro, just as the paintings of a Bonifazio are 
inferior to those of a Titian. 


The sensation of vitality may evidently be imparted 
by the use of bright colours alone, as in the case of 
advertisement posters, but for the more domestic 
process of oil painting this simplt method is often 


unsuitable. Conditions of subject-matter and decora- 
tive function usually demand a large proportion ol 
quiet tones, and the introduction of life and vigour into 
these tones may be a matter of some difficulty. 

The use of colours of a warm tint, i.e. t with a 
preponderance of red and yellow, will do something 
towards this end. But there can be no doubt that the 
real way of introducing vitality into colour is by 
devising a colour contrast of a suitable kind, and the 
sharper the contrast, the more lively will be the 
sensation produced in the mind of the spectator. If 
the contrast be between two shades of blue, as in some 
of the nocturnes of Whistler, the sense of vitality con- 
veyed will not be strong, because the two tones differ so 
little, and because blue is naturally a quiet colour. 
Were one of these nocturnes translated into a 
Turnerian scheme of delicate red and yellow, the sense 
of vitality would be stronger ; were the contrast one 
of bright blue and bright red, it would be so strong as 
to rob the work altogether of its tranquillity. 

It is for this reason that a coat of cool colour will , 


possess more vitality, when laid over a warm colour, than 
if laid over another cool tint similar to itself in hue and 
tone. In the former case, wherever the ground shows 
through, the vibration of the two opposing tints will be 
lively. In the latter case the upper and lower tints 
will be so alike that there will be little or no vibration, 
and the effect will be dead. Hence the danger of 


repainting any part of a picture, without ensuring that 
the new paint is laid over a ground which differs from 
it considerably in colour. 

Again, where the contrast is carried forcibly through 
a picture, as in Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne, where 
strong blue and russet, or strong blue and scarlet, are 
everywhere opposed, the effect is more stirring than in 
his Noli me tangere, where the quiet blue of the sky is 
separated from the quieter crimson of the Magdalen's 
dress by a large mass of neutral browns and greens. 
As Reynolds pointed out long ago, the style of painting 
in which strong colours are sharply opposed to one 
another in large masses, is more grand and striking 
than one where the colours are used with but moderate 
force and are tenderly blended. 

Also, the place in a picture where the contrast of 
colour is strongest will inevitably tend to attract the 
eye. It should therefore correspond with the focus 
of interest, lest the spectator's attention be diverted. 
The device, commonly employed by a previous genera- 
tion of landscape painters, of introducing a figure in a 
scarlet cloak to enliven by contrast a scheme of cool 
blues and greens, was open to objection on this score. 
The eye was inevitably drawn to the bright red spot, 
and finding there only a conventional little figure, was 
disappointed and confused. 

If a painter finds himself face to face with the 
same difficulty, and sees his picture suffering from 


inertness of colour, he would be wise, I think, to con- 
sider carefully where the focus of interest lies, and try 
to heighten the colour contrasts in its immediate neigh- 
bourhood before attempting to introduce or emphasise 
any accessories, strengthening cool colours if the general 
tone be warm, and warm ones if the general tone be 

Lastly, since harmony depends on repetition, a 
picture will consist of a series of colour contrasts most 
forcible at or near the focus of interest, and less for- 
cible in the subordinate parts. Into this ordered 
scheme a contrast of the most striking kind can be 
introduced by the employment of some different colour, 
found nowhere else in the picture, and made doubly 
emphatic by its isolation. It is, however, a device 
rather for emergencies than for general use since, if 
the isolated colour is used in any considerable mass, it 
may disturb the harmony of the whole scheme. 

Vitality of general effect is, however, most readily 
produced when the colours composing a picture are 
separated by definite contours. This system is found 
in all the early European schools up to the time of 
Titian, in the colour-prints of Japan, in the porcelain 
of China, and in the faience of Persia and the nearer 
East. If we compare these various schools of fine 
".olour with the colour produced by later masters 
such as Gainsborough or Delacroix, we shall notice 
that the work of the former group is more cheerful 


than that of the latter, as well as more brilliant. It 
conveys the impression of a younger, simpler, and 
perhaps a happier world ; while the painters whose 
tones melt imperceptibly into each other seem perhaps 
more sensitive, but are certainly more pensive or more 
sombre. Colour contrasts, in fact, like tone contrasts, 
can be made much more lively and forcible if the 
contours of the constituent masses are kept sharp and 
definite, as in a patchwork quilt, a map, or a stained 
glass window. 


No less important than vitality of colour is subtlety 
of colour. Good colour is never a positive thing of 
which every part can be definitely described, but the 
tints are so constantly gradated and interchanged that 
no two square inches, even of a large picture, will be 
exactly alike. In good pictures, even the colours which 
appear to be unbroken reds and blues resolve them- 
selves, when seen closely, into complex tints of infinite 

Great colourists appear to obtain the infinite play of 
hue without effort, and it is only when we see their 
early works, that we find traces of the labour by which 
they acquired their mastery. Nor does a survey of 
the field of painting show any one royal road to this 
power of producing subtle colour. With the early 


masters of Italy it is produced by the delicate inter- 
weaving of tempera brush strokes : with Titian and the 
Venetians it seems to depend upon the laying of a film 
of semi-opaque oil paint over aluminous ground : with 
the Flemings in general it is produced by transparent 
or translucent painting over a thin brown preparation. 
Turner often worked in very thin colour on a ground of 
solid white ; Watts used successive scumbles of 
pigment so stiff as to be nearly dry. The Pre- 
Raphaelites and the Impressionists alike depended on 
minute touches of pure, bright colours ; Gainsborough 
worked with large loose sweeps of secondary and 
tertiary hues. Every colourist in fact, however much 
he may have learned from his predecessors, has always 
had to work out his own salvation in the end, by 
finding for himself the method which best expresses 
his personal ideals. 

The difficulty of the matter lies in the fact that 
success and failure in colour lie within such narrow 
limits. A careful copy may from some slight additional 
heaviness of handling, imperceptible except to a trained 
eye, lose all the colour-quality of the original from 
which it is taken. Even when the tints seem perfectly 
matched, a slight difference in surface will alter the 
effect. A shiny paper, for example, may go far to 
destroy the subtlety of any tone printed upon it, while 
a coat of varnish may transform a dull expanse of paint 
into a masterpiece. 


The constant study of fine colour both in painting 
and in other forms of art, such as Chinese porcelain 
and Persian faience, may do something towards the 
education of a colourist ; the knowledge that constant 
gradation or vibration lies at the root of the whole matter 
may do a little ; but the faculty of appreciating subtle 
colour depends, or seems to depend, upon a fineness of 
perception in things not mathematically demonstrable, 
and upon a boldness of invention which must in some 
degree be inborn. 

Certain methods, however, may be recommended to 
the beginner by which his first steps may be rendered 
comparatively painless. If we work in oil, the use of a 
transparent brown underpainting, in the manner of 
Rubens, allows more positive colours to be introduced 
gradually, and enables those whose progress is difficult 
to do work which, if not inventive, is at least not actively 
unpleasant to the eye. 

Perhaps the greatest trouble of all in connection with 
colour is the fact that its most subtle qualities are often 
revealed by accident, and seem to be dependent on a 
certain degree of incompletion. A sketch is almost 
always more pleasant in colour than a highly finished 
picture. The more, indeed, we re-work our pigments 
the less will be their purity and vibrant quality. If we 
wish to alter them, we must do so in the way Reynolds 
recommends, by laying on more colour, not by 
messing about that which we have already got. 


Freshness and directness in fact are akin to quality 
and subtlety. 

One other property of subtle colour remains to be 
noticed. It is rarely or never associated with strong 
relief. All the best colourists, from the time of the 
primitives to our own day, avoid excess of roundness in 
their modelling. Their masses approach as nearly to 
flatness as is compatible with significance, and perhaps 
the finest schools of colouring in the world are those of 
China and Japan from which relief is wholly abolished. 
If we examine carefully a fine example of Titian or 
Gainsborough or Turner we shall be struck by the 
very low scale of relief which is employed. The sense 
of solidity always seems to be obtained with the 
smallest possible range of tone. Even painters like 
Reynolds, whose contrast of tones is forcible and who 
admit dark shadows, always take care that their lights 
shall incline to flatness, and shall be delicately modelled 
inside that apparent flatness. In this respect it will 
be seen that the use of colour is apparently governed 
by a similar principle to that which holds good with light 
and shade, namely that rounded modelling is inimical, 
if not invariably fatal, to complete success. 


From what has already been said about colour, it is not 
difficult to see how restfulness of colour may be attained. 


The most obvious way of all is to use secondary and 
tertiary tones, especially those in which blue rather 
than yellow or red is the dominant quality. Iteration, 
as we have seen, will do much to secure unity, but the 
unity so produced may not be pleasant to the eye. A 
poster, for example, some ten feet square may have a 
certain unity, though executed in glaring red and purple, 
if the constituent colours are sufficiently interwoven 
and repeated. Yet its total effect on the eye will 
none the less be unpleasant, from the sheer impact of 
the violent colours of which it is composed. But this 
same scheme of colour, were it reduced to the scale of a 
miniature in an illuminated manuscript, might look no 
more than pleasantly bright. 

Harmony, in fact, is limited by the power of the 
eye to endure the shock of strong colour without 
pain. A miniature may be painted in vivid colours : 
the same colours used on a large scale would be 

When using primary or secondary colours on the 
scale of a fair-sized easel picture, we must not only 
repeat them, but must separate them as far as possible 
from each other. We may modify them further by the 
addition of a certain proportion of tertiary colour, and 
this proportion must be increased with the scale of the 
picture. Red, or colours like violet and orange which 
contain red, must be managed with special caution, for 
the irritating element in them is strong enough to 


overwhelm a proportion of neutral tints sufficient to 
make blue and yellow harmonious. 

The choice of a tertiary to modify a contrast between 
two strong colours will naturally be determined by the 
particular emphasis desired. For example, in a land- 
scape, red walls or roofs may make a sharp contrast 
with green grass or trees. Supposing we wished to 
modify that contrast, which would be the best tertiary 
to employ? The answer depends upon the part of 
the subject which we wish to emphasise most. If the 
green trees are the subject, then we shall accentuate 
their greenness by working on a brown ground, which 
will serve as a contrast to them and will soften the 
force of the reds. On the other hand, if the buildings 
were the principal thing, a gray tone would blend with 
the greens and make the reds stand out sharply. In 
the same way if some colour in a picture seems unduly 
obtrusive, yet alteration be undesirable, its effect may 
be moderated by the introduction, in some other part 
of the picture, of a still stronger and larger mass of 
similar colour. 

The second way of securing repose in colour is by 
doing away, so far as possible, with sharp edges so that 
the tones melt imperceptibly into one another. The 
process, however, is a dangerous one as it entices 
many artists into a feeble and woolly method of work. 
It should not be forgotten that the last manner of 
Corot and Turner who carried the process as far as it 


can be carried safely, was founded on years of practice 
in a singularly dry and precise style. For the 
beginner, at least, the intelligent use of tertiary colours 
to modify strong contrasts is a safer principle than the 
blurring of contours. This blurring too often results 
in ruining the stability of the design, and without 
stable design we can produce nothing except trifles. 

Lastly, if we find that a design promises to be too 
turbulent, we can make it restful by reducing the pitch 
of the colouring throughout : if necessary, till it is 
little more than monochrome. The landscapes of Gains- 
borough owe much of their charm to the consummate 
skill with which he reduces the sharp blues of nature 
to delicate gray or turquoise, and her sharp greens to 
broken tones of olive and golden brown. The works 
of Rembrandt and Hals or, among more modern 
artists, of Daumier and Millet, frequently exhibit the 
same practice. Nature's scheme of bright sharp hues 
is transposed into one of grave majestic tones, and 
these convey a spirit of solemnity which would be 
entirely dissipated by more lively colouring. If one 
of Millet's sombre peasant groups were surrounded by 
the vivid greens and blues of a Constable sketch, it 
would instantly lose its impressiveness. 

In practice this reduction is often far from an easy 
matter. Every colour in a picture is affected by its 
neighbours, so that if we wish to lower the pitch of 
some too prominent colour, we must lower all the 


rest in exact proportion. Many of the most delight- 
ful effects of colour depend on such reductions. 
Turner, for example, makes brown look like red, and 
gray look like blue, by contrasting them skilfully with 
their complementary tones. When the reduction of 
pitch is small the eye will overlook minor inequalities ; 
when it is very great the result approaches mono- 
chrome and once more becomes manageable. It is the 
intermediate stage which is difficult, but as it is also 
the most fascinating it is well worth all the study we 
can devote to it. Special prominence was given to 
Gainsborough in the preceding paragraph because, 
among comparatively modern masters, he is the one 
who has perhaps succeeded best in holding an exact 
balance between excessive brightness and complete 
renunciation of positive colour, both in landscape and 
portraiture. In comparison with him, Constable would 
seem crude ; and, at the other end of the scale, Millet 
would seem limited. 

In making this reduction one factor must always be 
kept in mind. As the reduction approaches mono- 
chrome, the emphasis of our colour weakens and 
emphasis of light and shade takes its place. Our new 
scheme of transposed colour must thus be adjusted to 
correspond with that emphasis, and possibly must 
sacrifice some accent of its own to do so. 

A neglect of this condition causes many pictures, 
notably those by the minor masters of the Dutch 


School, to look better in photography than in their 
original paint. They are designed in light and shade, 
but the emphasis of the touches of colour is not 
identical with that of the fundamental design, and the 
result, in spite of the individual tones being quiet, is 
confused and unrestful. In certain English water- 
colour drawings we may notice the same fault. For 
example, we find architecture cleverly drawn in quiet 
tones of brown and orange, but the addition of a blue 
sky destroys all this repose by competing with the build- 
ings, and distracting the spectator's eye from what 
really should be the principal subject. A wash of gray 
would have given the effect of atmosphere equally well, 
and by its subordination to the buildings would have 
left them their predominance. 


" Sumite materiam vestris qui pingitis aquam 


After the ARS FOE TIC A. 


THE materials at the artist's disposal are so various, 
and differ so widely in their nature, application and 
functions, that any attempt to analyse them as a 
whole on the method hitherto followed would be more 
complicated than practical. It will therefore be most 
satisfactory to deal with the chief artistic processes 
one by one. These processes may for convenience be 
grouped under three heads : 

1. Processes of Drawing. 

2. Processes of Engraving. 

3. Processes of Painting. 

We may at once turn to the consideration of the 
first group, that of Processes of Drawing. These 
processes may be regarded as being five in number. 

1. Silverpoint Drawing. 

2. Pen Drawing. 

3. Drawing with pencil or hard chalk, 

4. Drawing with pastel or charcoal 

5. Brush Drawing. 




The process of drawing with a gold or silver wire 
upon a sheet of paper washed with zinc white has 
been a favourite one with great masters. The pale 
gray line produced by the touch of the metal point has 
a cleanness and crispness resembling that produced by 
a stroke of the graver, while the possibility of working 
on a slightly tinted ground often makes the result a 
thing of singular beauty. Unity is secured by the 
correspondence between the pale tone of the work and 
the paper on which it is executed. This paleness of 
tone is a disadvantage when the quality aimed at is 
vitality; then the bolder contrasts of black chalk, or 
the emphatic strokes and angles of drawings made 
with the pen or point of the brush, would be more 

In subjects, however, where infinite gradation of 
touch, statement of delicate detail, and subtle purity 
of tone are needed, as in drawings of women and 
children and indeed in portraiture generally, silver- 
point is invaluable. Considering the example set by 
Raphael and Leonardo it is curious that silverpoint 
should not be in more general use among our portrait 
draughtsmen, for it is restful as well as delicate. 
Possibly the worship of what is obviously vigorous 
has for the time being blunted our perceptive sense, 
and has led to this undeserved neglect. A few exquisite 


landscape drawings too have been made in silvcrpoint, 
but its possibilities in this field have not yet been 
really explored and might repay exploration well. 

Drawing with the quill or reed pen was generally 
practised by the old masters, both in studies from the 
model and in sketches for compositions. The pen 
was usually charged with bistre, or some other neutral 
brown pigment. The drawings thus were pleasant in 
aspect, while the cleanness and precision of the 
touch introduced a force and spirit which no othei 
medium could surpass. Only a very small degree of 
gradation is obtainable in a pen stroke, and the great 
masters, when they needed gradation, generally 
obtained it by reinforcing their pen drawings with 
washes of colour applied with the brush. 

The drawings of Rembrandt exhibit the flexibility of 
this method to perfection ; indeed, in his hands pen 
drawing assumes a force and subtlety which others 
have hardly succeeded in equalling by lengthy pro- 
cesses of painting. The effect of drawings like those 
of Campagnola, where gradation of tone is sought by 
making the line work elaborate, are much inferior in 
effect to those where the decisive pen lines are rein- 
forced with the brush. The perfecting of the steel pen 
enabled the Pre-raphaelites to execute some marvel- 


lous drawings with the finish of miniatures : then, with 
the rise of process-engraving, pen drawing changed its 
character. The photographic process demanded neat, 
open decisive work, in clear regular strokes, without 
blotting or washing or very fine lines, executed in 
very black ink upon very white paper or cardboard. 

The decorative beauty of the older drawings was 
thus sacrificed almost universally, as a comparison of 
a drawing by Charles Keene with a piece of good 
modern work will prove. Inartistic conditions indeed 
have not prevented some delightful work being done, but, 
with one or two possible exceptions, the best of it has 
been done for our humorous papers, where a certain 
freedom of tradition has survived from the great days 
of wood engraving and lithography, and where the 
qualities needed are rather a merry eye and a quick 
hand, than tender insight or great intellectual power. 


As silverpoint is the medium for subjects that need 
extreme refinement of contour, and the pen for subjects 
that need spirit and sharpness, so the pencil or hard 
chalk may be regarded as mediums of general utility, 
being hard enough to give reasonable precision of 
form, and yet soft enough to give delicate gradations 
of tone. 

The pencil is specially popular from its handiness 


and portability, so its advantages over all other 
mediums in these respects outweigh, for many, its 
disadvantages. No medium can be used so readily, or 
can suggest so much with so little trouble and prepara- 
tion. It is thus invaluable to those who have to 
depend upon rapid notes, or have to sketch under 
difficult conditions. The comparative weakness or 
poverty of the effect it produces, and the shiny surface 
which graphite is apt to leave, can be avoided or 
concealed by a skilful draughtsman, but for all 
elaborate work, especially for such as can be done in a 
studio, hard chalk gives far better results. 

The pen or the silverpoint were preferred to chalk 
by the artists of the Quattrocento ; possibly because 
the precise detail which could be obtained with them 
was akin to the precise detail demanded of the tempera 
painter. The moment, however, that the use of the oil 
medium became general, and breadth of effect was 
preferred to sharp definition, the use of black and red 
chalk became customary. Raphael and Michelangelo, 
Holbein and Rubens made their noblest drawings 
with black or red chalk ; while, later, in the hands of 
Gainsborough, and above all in those of Watteau, 
these materials proved not only their fitness for an 
entirely different order of subject-matter, but also their 
power of conveying the sense of colour. 

The example of Watteau has proved, too, that cnalk 
can be used with a minute precision almost rivalling 


that of silverpoint ; but not one draughtsman in a 
million could expect to emulate that enchanting 
virtuoso, and the majority of those who draw in chalk 
must expect to have to work on a larger scale than the 
draughtsmen who use a sharp pointed instrument. 
Subject to this condition, and granting a moderate use 
of the stump or the brush to produce or to soften flat 
tones, there is hardly any subject either in figure or 
landscape work to which hard chalk will not do justice ; 
no medium is at once more spirited and more precise, 
more forcible and more delicate. 


j Hard chalk, however, has but little favour in these 
days compared with pastel and charcoal. Possibly we 
have lost something of the sense of the vigour and 
value of line which our forerunners possessed, and do 
not wish to follow contours so firmly as they : possibly 
the coming of Impressionism has taught men to look 
for colour and sunlight, and to let delineation of the 
forms take care of itself. Whatever the cause, char- 
coal, soft chalk and pastel are the favourite materials 
to-day for sketches and studies where oil or water 
colour cannot be used. 

With charcoal and soft chalk we certainly get great 
richness of shadow, strength of tone, and, by wiping 
or rubbing out, great brilliancy of light. These 


qualities make the medium suitable for landscape, 
portrait and figure subjects, when dramatic effect is 
more desirable than subtlety. These dramatic effects, 
however, come so readily with charcoal that drawings 
made with it are apt to look showy and superficial. 

Pastel has many conveniences for the student of 
colour. Its softness, however, compels a certain lack 
of definition, and though this vagueness is serviceable 
in some classes of landscape work, and to a less extent 
in portraiture, it is apt to entice the student into the 
making of endless slight studies, charming perhaps as 
far as they go, but rarely going as far as a good artist 
should desire. This defect can be mitigated by 
working on rather a large scale, but it can never be 
entirely overcome. 

On the other hand pastels, being used dry, do not 
suffer the loss of luminosity which occurs when a 
pigment is diluted with any liquid medium. Pastel 
therefore is naturally adapted for the notation of vivid 
effects of light and colour, and this power is increased 
by the fact that, for mixed tints, the component hues 
can be hatched across each other, and so do not lose 
brightness as wet pigments do when they are mingled 
intimately. The texture of such hatched work may 
not be pleasant, indeed the tone of pastel even when 
softened by the stump is apt to be startling to eyes 
accustomed to other pigments, but there are occasions 
when every atom of colour and light which can be 


preserved ought to be preserved, and for those 
occasions pastel is the appropriate medium. When 
quieter tones have to be rendered, and that is the case 
with the vast majority of subjects, other mediums give 
finer results than pastel. Logically perhaps, pastel, 
admitting as it does the use of a full set of colours, 
should be included among processes of painting. Yet 
it has really little in common with these processes, and 
it seems better to deal with it in connection with 
drawing in soft chalk, for to that it is, in practice, 
more nearly akin. 


Brush drawing on the other hand is akin to painting 
in the matter of execution, but to drawing proper in its 
results. In Europe, monochrome drawing with the 
brush has been almost invariably executed on paper. 
On that material the brush leaves a sharp impression, 
well suited to vivid and lively notes, while the flexi- 
bility of the point allows great freedom of handling. 
Yet this very flexibility makes the brush a difficult 
thing to control, so that brush drawings are com- 
paratively rare things, and are commonly made only by 
those who are very facile executants. The quality 
gained by the brush is one of swiftness and spirit, and 
this quality is apt to vanish when the wash is in the 
slightest degree disturbed or modified by subsequent 
retouching. The brush is thus ill-suited for any 


subject that demands delicacy of tone and modelling, 
for these can only be obtained by comparatively slow 
careful manipulation. The early masters sometimes, 
it is true, obtained these effects by using a very small 
fine pointed brush in the manner of a pen ; but the 
drawings so made, however delicate, would have 
looked more crisp and masterly had they been done 
with silverpoint. 

In China and Japan, where the brush has for 
centuries been used for drawing upon silk as well as 
paper, the results obtained are remarkable. Being 
trained from childhood to handle the brush, with the 
aid of a well-established routine of practice, these 
Oriental artists acquire a certainty of touch and a 
flexibility of arm, wrist and fingers such as few 
Europeans can boast. Swiftness is an essential of the 
process, so that this flexibility stands them in good 
stead, while they are further assisted by the pictorial 
convention of their continent, which renounces the 
imitation of relief by means of light and shade. The 
Oriental artist is concerned only with the character of 
the things he represents. The European is always 
thinking of imitating the appearance they present to 
the eye : he is not content, till the bulk, the roundness 
and the surface modelling of the objects before him are 
rendered with all the force of light and shade and 
relief which his materials permit him to use. The 
sharp touch of the brush is thus as ill-adapted to the 



elaborate modelling of Europe as it is suitable to the 
vivid sketching of the Oriental. Unless we deliberately 
imitate Oriental methods, we shall find that the brush 
satisfies us better when reinforcing other materials, 
such as the pen, the pencil or hard chalk, than when 
used by itself. 

The last few years have witnessed in England a remarkable 
revival of the use of the pen, the pencil and the brush for making 
studies. The results obtained fully vindicate the superiority of 
these materials to the pastels, soft chalk and charcoal which were 
commonly employed by the previous generation of students. 


THE processes of engraving may be most conveni- 
ently classified under three headings, according to 
the materials on which the engraving is made. 

1. Engraving on wood. 

2. Engraving on stone. 

3. Engraving on metal. 


The principle of all wood engraving is the same. 
The whites are cut out from the surface of a flat block, 
leaving the dark portions in relief, to be printed either 
in a press, as in Europe, or by rubbing, as is the 
custom in the East. The tool used in the older forms 
of wood engraving was a sharp pointed knife, and the 
cutting was done on comparatively soft woods, in the 
direction of the grain. Up to the beginning of the 
nineteenth century this was the universal practice in 
Europe, and still remains so in China and Japan. 
Both in Europe and the East this cutting became a 



highly specialised craft, and the common practice was 
for the artist to make his drawing in line on the wood 
block and then to hand it over to the engraver to be 
cut. The magnificent engravings by Lutzelberger, 
after Holbein's designs for his Dance of Death, illus- 
trate the perfection of workmanship which was thus 
attained, even though it was attained at the cost of 
some of the peculiar characteristics of the medium. 

The wood-engraver, in reality, works in white on a 
black ground, since every incision he makes tells as a 
light when printed. His method is thus analogous to 
that of a draughtsman working with body colour on a 
dark ground. Almost every artist, however, who 
drew for wood engraving, drew with dark pigment on 
a light ground. Wood engraving thereby was per- 
verted into an imitation of pen and ink drawing a 
perversion which survived and was intensified when the 
use of the graver was discovered, and the substitution 
of hard boxwood (cut across the grain) for softer 
woods (cut in the direction of the grain), allowed the 
cutting of the most minute and regular lines. 

Although in the prints of Bewick and his school, made 
when the new process was in its infancy, we may note 
the skilful use made of white Itnes on a strong black 
ground, the general tendency set towards a still closer 
imitation of pen work than had been possible with the 
knife, which culminated in the wonderful cuts after 
Millais, Sandys, Houghton and the other English "artists 


of the sixties." The true tradition survived only in the 
little prints of William Blake and Edward Calvert, so 
it is under their influence that the few notable modern 
exponents of wood engraving have worked. Their 
achievements prove that wood engraving has powers 
which have never been sufficiently exploited, and are 
well worth the attention of those who are in search of 
a powerful means of dealing with romantic subjects. 
The reproductive engravings of Mr. Timothy Cole 
indicate, on the other hand, that wood engraving may, 
in skilful hands, almost rival mezzotint in delicacy of 
tone, though his elaborate methods are less likely to 
be of use to the creative artist than the splendid 
directness of Blake. 

Unity, vitality, and repose are qualities natural to 
straightforward woodcutting : add to this its poten- 
tialities in the matter of colour-printing (of which Japan 
has provided such splendid examples), and no claim 
made for it will seem extravagant. 


Lithography, the art of taking impressions from a 
drawing made on a fine grained stone or prepared paper, 
with a special kind of greasy chalk, is a comparatively 
modern invention. It has unfortunately been put to 
commercial uses even more frequently than wood 
engraving, and its finest tradition, until the time of 


Whistler, is limited to a few works by Goya, and a large 
number of drawings, mostly for illustrated periodicals, 
by Daumier, and other Frenchmen of less talent, of 
whom Guys was perhaps the most striking and Raffet 
the most popular. 

In the hands of Goya and Daumier lithography 
becomes a medium of great power, although, in 
Daumier's case, the quality of the prints is not in- 
variably pleasant, as they were produced cheaply to 
serve the needs of the moment. The pale gray tones 
obtainable in lithography caught the fancy of Whistler, 
and he developed the art to a pitch of refinement which 
no other lithographer has attained, his use of the 
brush in one or two rare washed lithographs being, I 
believe, without parallel. His best lithographs are in 
quality as fine as the best of his etchings, and there can 
hardly be higher praise than that. Yet the secret was 
a personal one, for his most accomplished modern 
follower, Mr. C. H. Shannon, has never attained quite 
the same delicacy, although he has extended the 
application of the medium to elaborate effects ol 
shimmering light. The other living artists who have 
tried lithography have not had so much success. 

It remains however a fine medium, cither for 
emphatic statements of tragedy and satire, as with 
Goya and Daumier, or for artists like Whistler, Fantin 
Latour and Shannon, who are in love with certain 
phases of delicate illumination. The ordinary painter 


will probably find he can work far more easily with 
common chalk on paper, and get more spirited effects 
with the etching needle. 


The processes of engraving on metal may roughl) 
be divided into two sections. 

I. Processes in which the metal is cut with a tool ; 
as in line engraving, stipple engraving, dry-point, 01 

II. Processes in which the metal is eaten away by 
an acid ; as in etching and aquatint. 


Of all these numerous processes, line engraving 
deserves the first place. A plate of copper or soft 
steel is cut by a sharp V-shaped tool, which turns up a 
little ridge of metal on each side of the furrow it 
makes. These ridges are removed with a scraper, the 
plate is covered with ink, wiped, and then pressed into 
a damp sheet of paper to which the ink lines are 

The line thus produced has a character of its own. 
Considerable strength has to be exerted by the 
engraver in forcing his tool through the metal. So the 
pressure has to be evenly applied, to prevent the line 
being of uneven depth, and carefully controlled, to 


prevent it from slipping out of the proper course. 
The process is in consequence slow, and the line 
produced, though firm in quality, and well adapted to 
follow a sweeping curve, cannot possess the freedom 
and flexibility of a line drawn with more tractable 
materials. The great tradition of line engraving is 
thus one of austerity. Although certain of the early 
Florentine engravings have singular grace, and the 
same quality shows in some of the prints of Schongauer, 
great masters of the art such as Mantegna and Mar- 
cantonio in Italy, Dtirer and Lucas van Leyden in 
Northern Europe, agree in utilising to the full the 
precise and severe quality of the engraved line. 

Later, as with wood engraving, this feeling for 
character of line was lost in the search for effects of 
tone, and it is undeniable that, when used for purposes 
of reproduction, line engraving produced wonderful 
results, of which the engraved portraits and figure 
subjects of eighteenth-century France, and the prints 
after Turner in the nineteenth-century England, 
represent the culmination. The processes by which 
these wonderful results were attained were, however, 
so elaborate that a creative artist could hardly pursue 
them with advantage, even if the skill of Turner's 
engravers, which was the outcome of generations of 
professional experience and apprenticeship and the 
oversight of a most keen and critical genius, could 
ever be recovered. 


Nor is any general revival of the older tradition of 
line engraving probable in these days of photogravure, 
especially since the process can represent such things 
as trees only by an obvious convention. Yet, when 
this age of naturalistic experiment is over, the noble 
quality of the line produced may tempt some consider- 
able artist to apply the medium once more to a loftier 
order of subjects than the heraldic work to which it is at 
present restricted. And he may apply it with success, 
so long as subtlety of contour, and perfection of spacing 
are made the ideals ; while the rendering of tone is kept 
within the strictest possible bounds, even if it be not 
altogether discarded. Unity and repose such simple 
engraving will in some measure possess naturally , 
infinity must be sought in the subtlety of the contours ; 
vitality will be the one quality which the engraver will 
find it hardest to supply. 


The process, once so popular, of engraving by 
means of dots punched in a metal plate is, like line 
engraving, of great antiquity, but may be dismissed 
much more briefly. Though some pretty plates were 
produced in this manner during the eighteenth century, 
and the process has often been a useful adjunct to line 
engraving, it has never been used for original work by 
any considerable artist. It has the double disadvantage 


of being laborious in execution as well as weak in 
effect, and so, although it is not inappropriate to 
certain trivial subjects, few would care to waste time 
over it when better results can be got far more readily 
by other means. Technically I believe the word 
"stipple" is restricted to work reinforced by biting; 
where the work is done without acid it is said to be 
" in the dot manner." 


Dry-point is a process similar to line engraving in 
that the lines are cut directly upon a plate of metal 
with a sharp tool, but different from it in one important 
respect. In line engraving the effect of the printed 
line is dependent chiefly upon the ink retained in the 
V-shaped furrow cut by the graver ; in dry-point it is 
dependent almost entirely upon the ink retained by the 
rough edges of metal turned up by the passage of the 
tool through the surface of the plate. The purity of 
the line produced by engraving depends on the removal 
of these rough edges, or at least upon their subordina- 
tion to the furrow cut by the graver. The richness 
of dry-point depends upon their retention, and the 
furrow cut by the tool is of small importance. These 
rough edges retain the printing ink and, under the 
printer's hands, produce a line of rich and velvety 
blackness, of a depth and quality unattainable in any 
other process of engraving. Unfortunately the rough 


edges of metal on which the effect depends cannot be 
made to bear the stress of printing ; after the first few 
proofs are taken, their serrations are broken off or 
smoothed down, their power of retaining ink is 
diminished, and each successive proof is perceptibly 
weaker than its predecessor. 

Again, the process of drawing directly upon a metal 
plate is not easy work, although the substitution, in 
recent years, of a diamond for a metal point has done 
much to remove its difficulties. It demands strength 
in the fingers while, even with strength and experience, 
it is difficult to make the metal point move freely, 
and at the same time retain force. It is thus in- 
herently unsuited for the rendering either of precise 
and subtle contour, or for exact gradations of tone. 
Dry-point cannot well be used for imitating nature ; it 
can suggest her forms only by a convention, and her 
tones only by broad opposition of light and darkness. 

A medium which so imperatively calls for selection 
and concentration can be employed with success only 
by experienced artists. The record of dry-point is thus 
remarkable. Used first by Rembrandt as a means 
of enriching the shadows of his etched plates, it sub- 
sequently usurped the place of bitten work in his 
affections, and his large prints of The Three Crosses 
and Christ Presented to the People remain the two 
supreme monuments to the power of dry-point. With 
Rembrandt's death it went out of fashion, no doubt 


because it was unsuited to the materialistic temper ot 
his successors, and with one or two experimental 
exceptions (as with Andrew Geddes), remained un- 
employed till the revival of etching in England under 
the auspices of Whistler and Seymour Haden. Then 
it was once more well used, and it has continued 
ever since to be a part of the equipment of our fore- 
most etchers. 

Dry-point is undoubtedly a noble medium for 
sketching. Its lines have, individually, a richness and, 
when massed, a subtlety which no other materials 
so readily produce. Yet the tone contrasts are so 
strong that care and experience are needed to prevent 
the effect becoming scattered or violent ; while the 
difficulty of rendering form precisely makes it (as we 
have already seen) unsuitable for some subjects, and 
for all who are not accomplished artists. If used with 
genuine emotion, as was the case with Rembrandt, the 
most tremendous themes are not beyond its scope : if 
used without such emotion it may easily become 
theatrical or merely picturesque, as some clever 
modern French portraits indicate. Its chief disad- 
vantage for serious work is the fact that only the first 
few proofs taken from the plate really show the full 
power of the medium. Dry-point is thus an ex- 
travagant method to employ for an elaborate composi- 
tion, since the work will survive only in one or two 
dozen proofs, whereas, if executed in etching, it might 


be enjoyed by hundreds or thousands. The artist who 
makes the most generous use of his talent will there- 
fore restrict his dry-point plates to subjects that 
appeal to the cultured few and the collectors of rare 
41 states " : when working for a wider audience he will 
employ some form of engraving that, in the matter of 
reproduction, is less inexorably sterile. 


The majority of the processes of metal engraving in- 
volve working from light to dark, the untouched metal 
surface providing the lights, while the darks are 
produced by lines or spots cut into it. In mezzotint, 
as in wood engraving, the artist works from dark to 
light, the plate providing an uniform surface of shadow 
out of which the lights are cut. To produce the dark 
printing surface, the whole plate is mechanically 
roughened until it is covered with little evenly dis 
tributed teeth of metal which retain the ink. Where 
lights are required these teeth are cut away with 
a sharp steel scraper, or flattened out with a 

The rich luminous shadows obtained by the mezzotint 
process make it specially suitable for the reproduction 
of oil painting, and in that field mezzotint has achieved 
its chief triumphs. Almost at the moment of its 
invention, Prince Rupert produced his plate of The 


Great Executioner after Spagnoletto which, in its way, " 
has never been surpassed. The brilliant mezzotinters 
of the eighteenth century, who popularised the portraits 
of Reynolds, added new and subtle beauties to the 
craft, while, in the first half of the nineteenth century, 
it proved its fitness to deal with landscape in Turner's 
" Liber Studiorum," and in the delightful series of plates 
by David Lucas after Constable. 

The tradition of the art is thus both splendid and 
varied. Yet in modern times it has attracted but few 
artists, except for reproductive purposes, and even by 
these has been but intermittently employed. Several 
reasons seem to have combined to produce this result. 
To begin with, the preparation of the toothed ground 
is somewhat costly : then the actual process of 
scraping is much slower and more laborious than it 
might seem at first sight, and it is apparently difficult 
to judge how far the work has progressed without , 
taking frequent proofs from the plate. If the scraping 
is carried too far at any point, the engraver has to get 
a new ground laid and to work the passage again. 
Even the process of proving weakens the plate, since 
every proof that is taken wears away a little of the 
ground, and diminishes somewhat the richness of the 
effect. Mezzotint, too, produces the finest results 
when it renders deep shadows, arid deep shadows are 
out of fashion. Possibly also original mezzotints do 
not appeal widely to collectors for the simple reason 


that there are no classical examples to serve as a 
standard, the few magnificent plates scraped by 
Turner being too rare to establish a precedent. 

These extraordinary prints prove that mezzotint is as 
superb a medium for an original designer, as it was 
for the gifted men who reproduced the paintings of 
Reynolds or Constable, and that it possesses every 
important pictorial quality. The impossibility of ren- 
dering petty detail, and the possibility of veiling 
unessential portions of the design, are in themselves 
advantages which few other methods of painting or 
engraving can claim. 

Its difficulties do not seem insuperable by practice 
and patience, and mezzotint would therefore appear to 
offer an almost virgin field to the first strenuous talent 
that has the courage to master it. 


We may now come to the various methods in which 
the hollows in the metal plate, from which the printing 
ink is transferred to the paper, are produced by the 
corroding effect of an acid instead of being forcibly cut 
with a metal point. In the process of Etching, the 
metal plate is covered with a thin protective ground or 
varnish, upon which the design is drawn with a sharp 
needle. When acid is applied to the surface of the 
plate, it Attacks the metaV where it has been <?tposed 


by the passage of the point through the ground, and 
eats out U-shaped hollows, corresponding in size and 
depth to the breadth of the metal point, and to the 
fime that the action of the acid is allowed to last. If 
the biting lasts but a short time the furrows will be 
shallow and the tint produced in printing will be faint ; 
if the acid is allowed to act for a long time the furrows 
will be deep, and the print from them will be strong. 
As it is easy to regulate the action of the acid on 
different parts of the same plate, varying degrees of 
depth corresponding to various degrees of tone can 
readily be produced. 

These details are of slight importance compared 
with the advantage the medium possesses over other 
processes of engraving in the matter of facility. The 
metal point, if properly sharpened, meets with little or 
no resistance as it glides over the surface of the plate 
removing the varnish, and can thus be employed with a 
freedom analogous to that of a pen or pencil working on 
very smooth paper. The action of the acid, too, is 
slightly irregular, and gives the bitten line a ruggedness 
which is more picturesque than the severe precision of 
a line cut with the graver. 

Etching thus combines the spirit and freedom of 
good pen work with a pleasant quality of substance 
which pen work lacks. It has also a great tradition 
beginning with Durer and Rembrandt; indeed, the latter 
master carried the process so far, and developed it so 


nobly, that the achievement of the finest modern 
etchers is slight and limited in comparison. In one 
point, however, the great etchers agree, namely, that 
the power of the medium is shown most perfectly when 
reliance is placed upon the etched line, and upon that 
alone. The combination of a number of fine lines to 
form a tone has often been employed with consummate 
skill, both by Rembrandt, and by the clever moderns 
who used the process for engraving pictures, but the 
results are usually much inferior, both in force and 
vitality, to those obtained where the line is allowed to 
speak for itself, and tones are left out or but summarily 

The pre-eminent virtue of an etched line, as of a 
pen line, is vitality. Hence the process is specially 
applicable to portraiture, to the sketching of figures in 
motion, to landscape, and to architecture. Moreover 
it is one of the few artistic processes commonly 
employed in Europe in which the omission of un- 
essential features is consistently illustrated and ap- 
proved by good tradition. It is thus a medium in 
which artistic emphasis can be readily attained, without 
demanding from the spectator a tithe of the under- 
standing or tolerance which he needs to possess 
when similar omissions and abstractions have not 
the comfortable assurance of tradition to back them. 

No artist, perhaps, has explored the capacities of a 
medium so thoroughly as Rembrandt explored those of 



etching, and in his mature plates deliberate omission is 
carried further than in any other form of European 
art previous to the nineteenth century. In oil painting 
he was unable to go so far, hence, magnificent as are 
his paintings, many of the most masterly relics of 
Rembrandt's genius are to be found in his etched 
prints. The conventions, nay, the very material of 
his oil pictures, compelled the introduction of certain 
unessentials, though he reduced them to a minimum. 
In his etchings he was free to deal with essentials 

Some ingenious moderns attempt to print etchings 
in colour. The result is, at best, a sorry substitute for 
painting, while the colouring deprives the medium of 
the abstract quality to which its greatest manifesta- 
tions owe their excellence. It is just because the 
etched line does not imitate nature that its lively 
suggestiveness is so infinite in scope. 

Yet the quality of infinity is not easily or often 
obtained in etching. The character of the etched line, 
with all its picturesqueness, is clear and precise, and 
the character of an etched print is apt to be clear and 
precise also. Hence in these days we have perhaps 
three hundred clever etchers, and perhaps thirty who 
might be termed powerful or brilliant, but hardly three 
who can be said to extend their expression beyond the 
range of positive facts. Yet for all great work this 
extension is indispensable. In the case of etching 


extreme subtlety of drawing will do much, especially 
in the case of portraiture, as the example of Van 
Dyck proves. Subtlety of chiaroscuro is, however, the 
more obvious way of escape from prosiness, and here 
the varied resources of biting, the mixture of delicate 
lines with strong ones may come to the etcher's aid. 

Rembrandt himself came more and more to depend 
upon dry-point as an accessory to, or even as a 
substitute for the bitten line; Goya reinforced line 
with aquatint ; Whistler and other moderns have 
refined their effects by skilful wiping of the plate 
before printing. Other devices will be found in the 
hand-books on the subject. Unless an etching is very 
large or very unevenly bitten, it can hardly lack unity, 
or sin very grievously from lack of repose, while 
the process of steel-facing permits hundreds of proofs 
to be taken from a single plate without any very 
serious loss of quality. Altogether no artistic medium 
at present in use deserves its popularity better. 


In etching proper the metal plate is covered with 
an uniform coat of resinous varnish. In aquatint the 
resin is applied in the form of small separate particles. 
When the prepared surface is exposed to the action of 
acid, the acid eats away the copper which is left bare 
in the interstices between the grains of resin. The 


reticulation thus produced on the copper, prints as 
a tint corresponding in darkness to the period of 
exposure to the acid, and in evenness to the minute- 
ness of the grains of resin. A similar grain of a 
coarser kind may be obtained by pressing sand- or 
emery-paper into an ordinary etching ground, and then 
biting the broken surface. Work in aquatint is con- 
ducted by stopping the action of the acid where lights 
are required by covering these portions with varnish ; 
for darker passages this stopping out is delayed, while 
the deepest darks of all are produced by a long 

The flat tints thus obtained are naturally quiet and 
harmonious, but it is difficult to get forcible effects 
without coarseness, and almost impossible, apparently, 
to get subtlety, detail, or fine contours. Possibly 
these deficiencies account for the fact that aquatint 
pure and simple has not, I think, been used by any 
great artist. Goya has employed it with magnificent 
effect in combination with etching, the bitten line 
supplying the accent, the detail, and the precise con- 
tours which aquatint lacks. A few modern etchers, 
too, have produced good results on similar lines. 
Some French engravers of the eighteenth century, 
such as Grateloup, seem to have possessed a mastery 
of a process, of which the result is indistinguishable 
from incredibly fine aquatint. It is possible that a 
patient student might rediscover their secret and 


extend indefinitely its employment for artistic purposes. 
Yet since the use of aquatint in connection with 
etching is still but half explored, this would seem a 
more promising line of research. Many English 
landscape aquatints of the eighteenth century are not 
without a certain grandeur, heavy, clumsy, or empty 
though they are commonly apt to be. Could some- 
thing of their breadth and spaciousness be allied to 
the spirit and precision of the etched line, aquatint 
would deserve a new lease of life. 


THE processes of applying pigment to any surface for 
the purpose of making a picture may be classified 
according to the mediums with which the pigments are 
mixed ; and the process of painting with the simplest 
of all mediums, pure water, may well take precedence 
of more complicated methods. For practical purposes 
the forms of water-colour painting may be classified 
under three heads : 

1. Transparent water colour, in which the colours 
are simply mixed with water, and depend for their 
luminosity upon a white ground which shows through 
the thin washes of pigment. 

2. Body colour, in which the colours are mixed with 
a solid opaque white, usually zinc white. 

3. A mixed method in which both transparent 
colour and opaque colour are used side by side. 

The effects produced by these three methods of work 
are radically different so that it is impossible to deal 
with them together. 

1 66 



Though the tradition of transparent water colour in 
its more complicated forms is largely an English tradi- 
tion, the method was in general use long before English 
artists had attained to definite rank. The most pre- 
cious relics of this early use of the medium are the 
drawings of Claude and Rembrandt. In these the 
water-colour work is almost always in monochrome, and 
is generally employed to soften and complete a drawing 
made with the pen. The method is one of singular 
power and beauty. The pen lines give structure, back- 
bone and natural lively emphasis to the design. The 
wash of bistre or Indian ink softens the asperity of the 
pen strokes, and supplements their force by suggesting 
texture and tone. 

Of the two artists Rembrandt is the more direct, and 
hissuperb sketches seem for the most parttohave been in- 
vented and finished in a single brief sitting. The methods 
of Claude are more elaborate, the strength of his pen lines 
being often modified by washing with water, and the 
atmospheric effect of the distances being sometimes 
enhanced by a direct use of opaque white, the con- 
trast of this clouded pigment with the transparent 
portions of the drawing at times giving a delightful 
suggestion of actual colour, analogous to that found in 
the sketches of Gainsborough. This combination of 
pen and wash was commonly employed by the later 


Italians for studies of figure compositions, and very 
cleverly ; but with the decay of their fame the method 
* fell into disuse and has never been seriously revived 
till our own time possibly because the practice of 
water-colour painting with a full palette came into 
notice at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and 
has held men's attention ever since. 

Yet the method of pen and wash drawing deserves 
to be remembered. Its record from the days of Rem- 
brandt and Claude to those of Turner's studies for the 
''Liber Studiorum " is one of singular excellence. If it 
cannot pretend to imitate the colouring of nature, it has 
at any rate proved itself well fitted to suggest many of 
her most enchanting effects. It is not perhaps so per- 
fectly adapted for the study of the human figure as 
hard chalk, since it cannot be gradated with quite the 
same certainty, and therefore the skill of a Rembrandt 
is needed to use it with success in drawing from the 
nude. Its value however for rapid notation of effects 
of light and shade is unequalled, and thus it should be 
specially useful to the landscape painter. For land- 
scape too it has a fitness which is shared by all other 
monochrome processes. 

The colour of landscape is often unpictorial, if not 
actually unpleasing, at the very moment when the 
forms and the light and shade are most effectively dis- 
posed. We may see, for instance, a building of raw 
brick set upon fresh green grass with a glaring blue 


sky behind, which has nevertheless a certain dignity 
either momentary or intrinsic. To sit down and paint 
the scene as we see it would clearly result in a dis- 
agreeable picture ; yet to wait till twilight, when the 
tones of earth and architecture and sky blend more 
happily, may be impossible, or may involve the loss of 
the very effect of lighting upon which the interest of 
the subject hangs. By making a sketch in pen and 
wash, we are able to get from the subject just the 
elements of form and shadow that constitute its 
pictorial beauty, and dispense with the colour which 
introduces the jarring note. As previously mentioned 
the omission of local colour has the additional advantage 
of increasing the luminosity of the lighter portions of 
the drawing, so that the monochrome sketch will not 
only be more harmonious than a coloured one, but 
more brilliant and effective as well. 

A full palette of water-colour has been also used in 
combination with pen work, but much less frequently 
than Indian ink or bistre. For landscape it was 
employed by Philips de Koninck, who thus got effects 
rather more like nature, from a chromatic point of view, 
than those of his master Rembrandt, but far less 
luminous and majestic. Other Dutch masters, of whom 
Van Ostade is the most notable, made pen drawings of 
figure subjects which they tinted with washes of 
colour, producing results that were often lively and 
pleasant Their example was freely followed both on 


the Continent and in England, where the genius of 
Rowlandson extracted from the process the most 
artistic results which have been attained with it 

Rowlandson wisely confined himself to a few simple 
tints which he used with great judgment as accessories 
to his masterly pen work, usually more with the view 
of adding an element of charm to drawings already 
overflowing with force and spirit, than of increasing 
their emphasis. On occasion, of course, Rowlandson 
could make his colour as significant as his drawing, but 
his customary practice has been that adopted by the 
clever illustrators of the latter half of the nineteenth 
century, and only one or two artists in our own day 
have attempted to put the method to more serious use. 
The foundation of pen lines can give both unity and 
vitality to all work thus executed, and reasonable taste 
in the colouring will secure repose. If the quality of 
infinity is to be obtained at all it also must be obtained 
chiefly from the colour, for it is there that the method 
seems most elastic. Some help too may be derived 
from the planning and spacing which, since the work 
will usually be upon a small scale, can with safety be 
made much bolder and more capricious than is pleasing 
in the case of a large picture. 

In water colour proper the washes of colour are 
laid directly on the paper, usually over a faint pencil 
outline. A considerable number of water-colour 


studies of this type have been left by the Dutch 
and Flemish masters, sometimes, as with Cuyp, verg- 
ing upon monochrome, at others, as with Dilrer, Van 
Dyck, and Jordaens, admitting the occasional use of 
body colour, and approaching our modern methods 
Df sketching both in vividness and in treatment. 

These masters, however, were the forerunners of 
our modern tradition rather than its founders, and 
the true origin of the water-colour drawing of to- 
day, must be referred to the stained drawing of the 
eighteenth century. In these drawings, originally 
intended for engravers, a pencil outline was first 
reinforced by washes of Indian ink : then, on the 
top of this monochrome drawing, a limited number 
of pale tints were laid, so that the result was at least 
suggestive of nature's colouring. The finest and 
most typical specimens of this method of work are 
to be found in such drawings as those of John Robert 
Cozens. The method was admirably adapted for the 
expression of space, atmosphere and tranquillity, 
but forcible effects, either of colour or of light and 
shade, were beyond its scope. Thus, while equipped 
with the other qualities of good pictorial art, the 
stained drawing is apt to be deficient in vitality, and 
though a great artist might overcome this weakness 
it none the less limits the employment of the method 
to a somewhat narrow range of subjects. 

Girtin is said (on no very conclusive evidence) 


to have been the first to emancipate draughtsmen 
from this thraldom, by working in pure colour with- 
out a monochrome foundation, and upon his death the 
change was completed by Turner, Constable, Cox, De 
Wint, and Cotman. Turner, after inventing or per- 
fecting most of the technical devices on which the 
water-colour artist of to-day depends for getting 
variety of texture, gradually gave up the study of 
chiaroscuro for that of colour, of which he became 
a remarkable exponent. No other water-colour 
artist has equalled him in the boldness with which 
he combined the most brilliant tints, or has employed 
them with so small a sacrifice of luminosity. He 
had learned early in life that water colour was pre- 
eminently the medium of tricks and dodges, by 
which effects could be produced that were quite 
beyond the reach of straightforward manipulation, 
and his unremitting activity soon gave him a varied 
facility in their employment which it is improbable 
ihat any artist in the future will quite attain. 

Constable and Cox also began work upon the 
lines of Girtin, but their natural instinct was for 
sunlight, fresh air, and movement. To suggest them 
they invented formulae of their own, symbolising 
the vibration of light and the movement of clouds* 
grass, and trees, by broken touches, in place of the 
broad level washes beloved of their predecessors. 
De Wint's talent was devoted to effects of deep rich 


colour, and though too frequently wasted on the pro- 
duction of pretty finished drawings, achieved enough 
broad and masterly sketches to entitle him to a high 
place among our leading water-colourists. Cotman's 
great natural gifts were warped by the necessity of 
teaching, and the touch of the drawing master is too 
often apparent in his work. Yet both in design and 
colour he was an innovator, whose drawings, even 
when they are least successful, aim at an ideal of style 
which our realistic age is not constituted to appreciate 
at its full value. The coming of the Pre-raphaelites 
introduced a desire for more minute detail, and more 
literal resemblance to the tones and colours of nature, 
a desire which our prominent water-colourists attempted 
to satisfy up to our own time. Recently the Im- 
pressionist painters have led artists to think more 
about sunlight and less about finish. 

Each of these demands has in turn been met by 
the water-colour medium, but when we look back at 
the total result, it proves just a little disappointing. 
We have many clever and brilliant sketches, but 
comparatively few notable works of art. For sketch- 
ing indeed, no process has perhaps so many obvious 
merits as water-colour drawing. It is simple and 
rapid in manipulation, it renders delicate tones with 
ease, and it is not devoid of force in rendering full 
ones ; no other process is so rich in felicitous accident, 
so crisp and fresh in character, or better fitted if the 


need arises for rendering minute detail. It is hardly 
wonderful that so useful a medium should be popular 
both with painters and the public : yet it has not 
satisfied exacting critics. 

It is easy to attribute this dissatisfaction to pre- 
judice contracted from long acquaintance with oil 
and tempera painting, but such prejudice, even if it 
existed, would not be a complete explanation. We 
all recognise that water colours cannot, as a rule, 
be seen to advantage among oil or tempera paintings. 
That recognition in itself may not prove that water 
colour is inferior to oil painting in every respect, 
or under all circumstances. Some water colours indeed 
stand the ordeal well; but the great majority un- 
doubtedly look weak in tone and poor in quality 
under such conditions, and the inferiority is seen 
so often that we are compelled to inquire whether 
some inherent weakness in the medium may not be 
responsible for it. 

The t r uth seems to be that the ordinary trans- 
parent water-colour drawing, while it may suggest 
beautiful things, is not itself beautiful in substance, 
and this lack of beauty of substance is accentuated 
by the fact that it is executed in colour. An etching 
or a drawing in black chalk may not possess actual 
beauty of material, but since it is mere black and 
white, the absence of beauty does not force itself 
apon us. The introduction of colour makes all the 


difference. Colour cannot be a neutral quantity. 
When it is not positively good it is bad, and in 
water-colour drawing it is often difficult to get really 
good colour. Compared with the effects produced by 
other mediums its tones seem to be either feeble or thin, 
or hard or dull. When they aim at the exquisite cool- 
ness of fresco and tempera they commonly succeed in 
being no more than poor and cold ; when they aim at the 
richness of oil paint they become garish and heavy. 

The primary cause of this poorness of quality 
seems to reside in the transparency of the thin 
wash of pigment, and in the uniform luminosity of 
the paper beneath to which the colour owes its 
brightness. Its failings in fact are similar to those 
of the modern stained glass windows which are made 
of glass that is too evenly transparent. The old 
glass was far more uneven in quality ; it was trans- 
parent in some places, nearly opaque elsewhere, and 
to the varied vibrancy caused by these inequalities 
it owes its peculiar richness of effect. The water- 
colourist is confronted by a similar problem, which 
the great artists who have used the medium have 
solved, either by modifying the transparency of their 
washes through the introduction of semi-opaque pig- 
ment, or, while retaining transparency, have prevented 
it from becoming monotonous by manipulating the 
surface beneath. For the moment we are concerned 
only with the second of these processes. 


Occasionally the paper itself supplies the needful 
variety. That, for example, which Girtin preferred 
appears to have been semi-absorbent, and the washes 
of colour instead of merely resting on the surface 
of the sheet became actually incorporated with it. 
The drawings executed under these conditions have 
a pleasant "matt" quality which is not found in 
subsequent work, although in our own time a not 
unsuccessful effort has been made to revive the 
manufacture of a slightly absorbent paper, like that 
used at the close of the eighteenth century. The 
artists of China and Japan escaped this difficulty 
by working upon silk, a ground which in Europe 
has so far been used only by fan-painters. 

Another method of getting variety of surface was the 
employment of papers which were not pure white, but 
were granulated or tinted with some neutral colour. 
Granulated papers often gave good results, but were 
rarely of good quality. They might serve well for 
rapid sketches, but were often unsuitable for prolonged 
or delicate working. Besides, being usually made of 
poor materials, they were open to suspicion in the 
matter of permanence. Tinted papers could be made 
of good materials, and equal in other respects to the 
best white paper, and so were largely employed during 
the middle of the nineteenth century ; but the mechani- 
cal tinting was too regular and, though it tended to 
deaden tones which might otherwise have been too 


violent, it did not sensibly improve the quality of the 
water-colour washes. 

The employment of a very rough paper was perhaps 
more successful. It served at least to give variety of 
surface, and, where it was employed for rapid sketch- 
ing (its proper field, since the roughness precludes 
minute drawing of detail), there was a tendency for 
the brush to leave little spots and dots of white paper 
uncovered. These introduced a certain freshness and 
sparkle to the work which is not inappropriate to 
breezy landscape subjects of the type first developed 
by David Cox. 

The rawness of white paper was also decreased by a 
preliminary wash of faint colour, usually of a warm 
yellow tone, though in some cases Indian ink appears 
to have been used with very good effect. Such a wash 
indeed, would seem to be much preferable to the use 
of a tinted paper. If properly applied it would have 
just those slight variations of tone and quality which 
mechanical tinting lacks, and would therefore be a 
better foundation for subsequent washes of colour. 

We may now turn to the devices employed for im- 
proving the effect of water-colour drawing by treat- 
ment after the washes of colour have been applied. 
The most important of these is the device of wiping 
out lights, by first damping the surface and then 
rubbing it with a rag, bread-crumbs or india-rubber. 
This practice, if not invented by Turner, was firs* 



employed systematically by him. The rubbing not 
only produces a variety of surface texture but, if it be 
not too roughly treated, the rubbed portion retains a 
faint suggestion of its original hue. The device thus 
makes for variety both of texture and quality, and so 
becomes a valuable addition to the resources of the 

Large surfaces are often treated by sponging or pro- 
longed washing. Turner is said to have left his draw- 
ings in water for hours together when he desired 
exceptional delicacy. Great evenness of tone may 
be produced by such means, but the freshness and 
strength of the colour is usually sacrificed, so that the 
result is apt to be dull or feeble in effect, as we see in 
the case of Copley Fielding, who seems to have relied 
very frequently upon sponging and washing. 

A method used by Cotman gives better results. 
He often seems to have worked in flat tones upon 
moderately rough paper. Then when the washes 
were dry, a damp cloth was passed over the surface 
once or twice. This removed particles of colour from 
the projecting portions of the paper, but left the colour 
in the hollows untouched, and the work acquired 
thereby a not unpleasant texture. Tradition also 
states that the forcible effects Cotman produced were 
sometimes due to the use of sour paste to strengthen 
the body of his colours, and to allow of a manipulation 
.resembling in some degree that of painting in oil. 


Scraping with a sharp knife was also employed, 
both to modify texture, and to get sharp glittering 
lights. The later water-colours of Constable afford 
many instances of the practice, but it demands con- 
siderable skill on the part of the draughtsman, and it 
is not so generally applicable as "wiping out" or 
rubbing with a damp cloth. 

One device now rarely employed may also be men- 
tioned, namely, that of stopping out. The lights of a 
drawing were painted in spirit varnish. The drawing 
was then made, the tints where necessary being carried 
boldly over the varnish. The varnish was next dis- 
solved, and the white uncoloured spaces came into view 
to be re-worked or left as circumstances demanded. 
The effect was somewhat similar to that obtained by 
body colour, but the complexity of the process was 
doubtless the cause of its failure to find more general 

The method of stippling, by which the washes are 
reinforced with small touches of pure colour placed 
side by side, was used with great frequency and 
subtlety by Turner. He produced remarkably bril- 
liant effects of colour with it, especially when the 
stippling was confined to the focus of interest, and 
when it was contrasted with the more even tones pro- 
duced by washing. Ihe moment stipple is used all 
over the surface of a drawing it loses its usefulness 
and becomes a fault : a petty touch is substituted for 


broad handling, and little strokes, which would have 
given variety of texture and surface had they been 
used with moderation, become more monotonous than 
the simple washes which they cover. Stippling is 
thus a method only for powerful and practised artists. 
In feeble hands it is an incitement to additional feeble- 


Though the beauty of an unsullied wash of water 
colour upon certain kinds of paper is great, that beauty 
is not always at the artist's command, if only for the 
reason that a perfect paper of the kind required is 
rarely to be found, nor does the beauty obtained in 
this way fit every subject or every kind of decorative 
need. It is an austere and simple beauty which 
cannot be allied either with opulent effects of colour, 
with extreme subtlety of modelling, or with intricate 
design. If such things are needed, transparent water 
colour can only render them, where it can render them 
at all, with the assistance of devices such as wiping 
out and stippling. 

The possibility of strengthening the painter's re- 
sources by the use of opaque pigment, in addition to 
the transparent washes, was recognised at an early 
date, and the combination of the two methods (as we 
have seen) is illustrated to advantage in many of the 
drawings of Claude, where the use of opaque white. 


in the background of drawings executed chiefly in 
pen and bistre wash, gives the distance a quality of 
opalescent colour and a suggestion of atmosphere 
which could not have been attained so readily by any 
other means. 

The same device was taken up by Gainsborough and 
used with even more conspicuous succcess. His land- 
scape and figure drawings are infinitely various in 
their technical resource, but the best of them depend 
for their aerial beauty upon a combination of pro- 
cesses, in which black chalk, used directly or with the 
stump, upon a toned paper, is united with touches of 
other chalk, and of colours both transparent and 
opaque. Sometimes after the design has been laid in 
lightly with chalk, the whole is united with a wash of 
wet transparent colour, and the result is reinforced 
when dry by further work with chalk or opaque 
colour. At other times the design seems to have 
been worked with chalk or brush into a preparation of 
wet opaque colour. The methods employed produce 
such a variety of delightful results, that Gainsborough's 
drawings might well be as much studied by artists as 
they are now sought for by collectors. 

In the hands of his less sensitive successors at the 
beginning of the nineteenth century the obvious fea- 
tures of Gainsborough's method were reduced to a 
system, and the practice of drawing on a toned paper 
in pencil or black chalk, and then adding high lights 


with body colour or white chalk, became the stereo- 
typed formula of teaching art to amateurs. The 
method was too fine to deserve such degradation. The 
tone of the ground gave unity and repose, the chalk 
drawing gave vitality, while the mixture of trans- 
parent and opaque colour gave subtlety. Even when 
black chalk is used as a foundation for transparent 
water colour on white paper, the process of washing 
incorporates small portions of the chalk with the 
colour, and mitigates any tendency to harshness. 

Both for the realistic Orientalism of J. F. Lewis and 
for the glowing romanticism of Rossetti, brilliant colour 
was essential. Lewis, the less influential and im- 
portant of the two, mingled body colour and trans- 
parent colour with singular felicity, and seems to have 
got every effect he wanted with no more help than that 
of miraculous precision of touch and keenness of eye. 
sight. The masterly water colours of Rossetti display 
a still wider range of technical resource, every device 
known to the water-colourist being pressed into 
service, and used with the utmost possible freedom. 
To obtain variety of hue and texture, Rossetti, without 
the least hesitation, mixed opaque colour with trans- 
parent (though he did not use opaque colour to the 
same extent as Lewis), washed, scraped, or cut away 
the surface of his paper, and then stippled over the 
irregularities so produced, at times almost seeming to 
carve his work rather than to paint it. 


The result, in Rossetti's best period, is a series of 
small drawings which are no less rich in quality and 
forcible in hue than they are profound in feeling and 
superb in concentrated design. In them and in a few 
drawings by other men, such as Burne-Jones working 
under Rossetti's immediate influence, water colour 
attains a perfection similar to that which, in a different 
field, was attained by Turner. The method of Turner, 
however, with all its variety, relies largely upon broad 
washes of colour, and is thus best suited to the wide 
expanse of earth and sky for which he employed it 
The method of Rossetti is pre-eminently that of a 
colourist in the full and fervent key of a Titian, and 
so is the more suitable for subjects in which figures 
play a predominant part. Figure pieces executed in 
transparent colour may be pretty but, with very few 
exceptions, they are feeble and anaemic products when 
carried beyond the stage of a rapid sketch. Even 
though our annual exhibitions continue to be crowded 
with examples of this kind of figure-work, and the 
exhibitors are sometimes wonderfully skilful, no tech- 
nical accomplishment can quite prevail over the in- 
herent weakness of the transparent method for treating 
such subjects, and the student will be wise to carry 
3>ut his figure drawings on the lines of Rossetti and 
the Pre-raphaelites, or take frankly to body colour. 



The art of painting in opaque colour has been prac- 
tised both in Europe and the East for many centuries. 
In China and Japan it has been consistently used for 
important pictures ; in India and Persia, as well as in 
Europe, it was chiefly employed for miniatures and for 
illuminated books. The earlier Persian illuminated 
manuscripts rival our most famous European volumes : 
their portraits are of equal beauty, though the minia- 
tures of Holbein and Nicholas Milliard remain, in their 
particular field, unsurpassed. The finest examples of 
Samuel Cooper alone can stand any comparison with 
them, and the comparison only serves to show the 
advantage of opaque over transparent colour for minia- 
ture work. It has the property of remaining cool and 
blonde in quality even when rendering the most vivid 
hues, and thus keeps a pleasant texture and surface 
where transparent colour of the same brightness would 
inevitably be garish. Drawings like those of Mr. Sar- 
gent suffer from this defect. It cannot render depth of 
shadow well, but as Hilliard himself has pointed out in 
tas " Treatise on the Art of Limning," depth of shadow 
is unessential in miniatures. The point may well be 
worth attention in these days, when the tradition of 
miniature oscillates between faint memories of the 
prettiness of Cosway and baleful competition with 
tinted photographs. The revival of the art of illumina. 


lion, due to the influence of William Morris, suggests 
that a similar revival of miniature on the lines of 
Holbein and Hilliard would not be impossible. The 
comparative inaccessibility of the finest originals is 
the chief drawback the student has to face, for nothing 
short of the originals will convey any just idea of their 

Body colour was occasionally employed by the later 
artists of the Renaissance, and in eighteenth-century 
England the name of Paul Sandby is conspicuous 
among its patrons, but few of the drawings executed 
before the time of Turner have any serious claims to 
notice. Turner revolutionised the opaque method, as 
he did those of transparent water colour and of oil 
painting, and his sketches for the Rivers of France 
series rank among the most uniformly successful of his 
many achievements. 

His usual practice was to work on a grayish blue 
paper, over which he spread a thin wash of opaque 
colour into which the stronger tints were worked. 
Sometimes this foundation tint plays a large part in 
the general scheme ; at others it is veiled by subse- 
quent painting. The colouring of the sketches exe- 
cuted in this manner is uniformly rich, forcible and 
luminous, and in point of surface texture and general 
pictorial quality they leave nothing to be desired. The 
underlying tone of gray knits together any parts of the 
composition that might tend to separate from the rest. 


and harmonises the most daring contrasts of colour. 
One who has made copies of many of these Turner 
drawings for Ruskin informs me that the washes and 
touches of body colour throughout are very much 
thinner than their appearance suggests. To this the 
tints doubtless owe their vibrancy and lightness. 

Of recent years body colour has been employed 
with success for landscape work by some of our most 
gifted artists, while in France it is among the methods 
employed by Degas and other famous masters. In 
the hands of Mr. Conder silk instead of paper is used 
as a ground, and the colour effects produced in his 
fans and panels are among the most notable achieve- 
ments of our time. Linen also is sometimes used with 

Body colour, indeed, is a colourist's medium, and 
though the example of Holbein and the great illumi- 
nators has proved that superb colour is not incom- 
patible with minute finish, the best results produced 
by the method in modern times are invariably loose 
and broad in handling. On any scale but that of a 
miniature, high finish seems to result in heaviness. By 
adopting a loose treatment in body-colour work, the 
artist is able to avail himself of another advantage, and 
that no small one, which the method possesses. In 
few other processes is the omission of unnecessary 
detail so easy. When once the essential features of 
the design are stated, the brown or gray ground, 


whether it be left untouched or be covered with a pre- 
liminary wash of colour, makes a perfect support for 
them, without suggesting to the spectator the feeling 
of emptiness which is conveyed by white paper or 
untouched canvas. The slightest sketch in body 
colour has, in fact, a sort of decorative completeness 
which in other mediums can be obtained, if at all, only 
with labour and experience. 

This advantage is doubtless accountable for the 
popularity of body colour with the artists of China 
and Japan, who have realised for centuries that the 
artist is recognised as much by what he leaves out of 
his pictures as by what he puts into them. Their art 
is far more symbolical than our own and its symbolism 
is of a kind which few Occidentals can hope to under- 
stand; but it is always pre-eminently artistic in its 
disdain of unessential things, a disdain which such 
mediums as body colour and lacquer enable it to gratify. 


For details of the process of painting in tempera by 
which were produced the easel pictures of the early 
Italian masters, and therefore some of the most exquisite 
works of art in the world, the student must refer to the 
various treatises on the subject, among which Mrs. Her- 
ringham's translation of Cennino Cennini's " Trattato " 
is the most complete and accessible. The essence of 


the process is the use of yolk of egg diluted with 
water, as a painting vehicle. This vehicle is ground 
up with the dry powdered colours, and they are 
thinned with it to the degree necessary for convenient 
manipulation. The ground is usually one of fine 
white gesso applied either to panel or to canvas. 

The technique of tempera is rendered entirely dif- 
ferent from that of other forms of painting by the fact 
that the colours dry almost immediately. It is thus 
impossible to obtain fusion and modelling by blending 
one touch with its predecessor ; the touches can only 
be laid side by side or superposed. It follows that a 
tempera painting has to be built up by a number of 
successive strokes and hatchings, which may indeed be 
slightly modified by a rapid wash of thin colour, but 
the style will always remain to some extent linear. 
Alterations, too, are almost impossible, and a design 
cannot be amended after the work has once been well 

The peculiar qualities of tempera are the pearly 
translucency of its tints, and the general luminosity 
of its tone. It is therefore able to render pale shades 
of blue and gray and lilac, which in oil paintings 
would become chalky ; a faculty to which the skies and 
distances of the early masters owe their tranquil charm. 
Tempera would thus seem specially adapted to many 
of those cool, open-air effects which modern landscape 
artists find peculiarly difficult 


That it is not more frequently employed for such 
subjects must be attributed to two reasons. In the 
first place the rapid drying makes the touch precise, 
so that the artist is debarred from the freedom of hand- 
ling which working in wet colour permits. This is 
particularly needed in landscape both to express rapid 
movement, and to suggest what may be termed the 
accidental element in nature. 

Tempera too is not intrinsically a forcible method 
of work for deep tones and strong shadows have to 
be built up by repeated washings or hatchings. On 
this ground it was ultimately superseded in Italy by 
oil painting. At first pigments ground in oil were 
used as a kind of varnish to enrich tempera. Gradually 
this finishing process became more important than the 
tempera work, underneath ; so that, in the pictures of 
the youthful Titian and his earlier Venetian contem- 
poraries, we find the tempera painting is a mere founda- 
tion or ground for the elaborate work in oil which is 
executed over it. Probably a large part of the so-called 
" Venetian secret " of painting consisted merely in the 
use of a luminous tempera ground under the rich oil 
pigment with which the main portion of the work was 
carried out. 

It is unlikely that tempera will again come into 
general use until some and ready means has been found 
for retarding the rapid drying of the colours, so that a 
fusion of tones may be obtained more readily than by 


the laborious process of cross-hatching. Were this - 
disadvantage once removed, its advantages for many 
kinds of work would be considerable, since the pre- 
paration of the gesso ground offers no great difficulty, 
and the peculiar qualities obtained by tempera are 
admirably suited to more than one class of painting. 

The method which was employed for such a master- 
piece as Michelangelo's unfinished Entombment, in 
the National Gallery, is evidently not unfitted for the 
greatest and gravest subjects. Absolute certainty of 
design may still be a necessity, effects of swift motion 
may still be difficult to suggest, and forcible chiaroscuro 
may still be beyond its scope, but for serious figure 
composition, where the mood is restful and the purpose 
decorative, tempera in the future may prove the best of 
all mediums. For certain phases of Alpine landscape, 
where clear definition, brilliant light and brilliant 
colour are essential, it has already proved its useful- 
ness, and its scope for landscape work might be vastly 
extended if the drying of the pigment could be 

Of the four pictorial conditions, unity and repose are 
the two which tempera most readily fulfils, from the 
fact that strong contrasts of tone are not easily pro- 
duced. Reasonable coherence of plan, and reasonable 
agreement between the chief colours employed, are all 
that the artist need secure for his work to look both 
compact and restful. Infinity must be sought for in 


delicate gradation of hue, tone and contour; for a 
rough workman, the suggestive and accidental processes 
of oil or water colour will prove more suitable. Vitality, 
however, is the quality for which the tempera painter 
will have the hardest struggle, since the natural ten- 
dency of the medium is to be calm, cool and static. 
Movement cannot be suggested in tempera as it is 
suggested by a rapid blot in water colour, or by a rapid 
scribble with a pen. Tempera is precise and deliberate, 
so the impression of life and vigour has to be con- 
veyed by forcible planning, or by vivid modelling of 
the human figure,* helped out by stimulating contrasts 
in the colour which, in the absence of strong tones, 
becomes the most effective means of getting emphasis. 
So much is this the case, that the painter who is not 
sure of his power as a colourist would be wise to leave 
gempera alone. 

* Mr. Berenson's well-known hand-book, "The Florentine 
Painters of the Renaissance," contains a brilliant and interesting 
analysis Oi the Florentine sense of the " tactile values " of the 
human figure, which renders unnecessary any further discussion of 
the subject in this place. 




BY mixing powder colours with a siccative oil or 
varnish, a pigment is produced which may be practi- 
cally permanent when applied to a variety of surfaces, 
which lends itself readily to manipulation with the 
brush, and which is capable of much solidity, force and 
richness of effect. The process of oil painting has 
thus become the method by which pictures of any 
size and importance are most commonly produced in 
Europe. So many, however, are the forms which oil 
painting may assume, and so different are the results 
obtained in each case, that it is impossible to deal with 
all these variations as if they were one and the same 
process. Every great artist has developed some por- 
tion or portions of these numerous qualities till his 
method has become a thing distinct in itself, and a 
complete study of the tradition of oil painting could 
only be carried out by making a series of detailed 
tudies of the various great paintings produced by it. 
For practical purposes, however, it will be sufficient to 



classify the innumerable ways of using oil paint under 
three general headings. 

1. The transparent method, in which the pigments 
are used thinly, and depend chiefly or entirely for theii 
effect upon light reflected from a luminous ground ; as 
in the work of the early Flemish masters in the past, 
and of the Pre-raphaelites and Mr. Orchardson in our 
own day. 

2. The mixed method, which depends partly upon 
light reflected from the ground, and partly upon light 
reflected from a solid body of pigment. This has 
been in general use with mature schools of art from 
the early part of the sixteenth century till the latter 
part of the nineteenth. 

3. The opaque method, which depends entirely 
upon light reflected from a solid body of pigment : an 
entirely modern invention introduced to public notice 
by the so-called Impressionists. 

Painting with oil or varnish upon a gesso ground 
had been practised long before the days of the brothers 
Van Eyck, more especially in Northern Europe, where 
the dampness of the climate necessitated a stronger 
vehicle to preserve the colours than was required in 
Italy. The ground was usually of gesso, similar to 
that prepared for tempera painting, but the oleo- 
resinous vehicles employed were neither colourless 
nor, it would seem, easy to manipulate. The " inven 


tion " of Hubert and John Van Eyck was the discovery 
of a medium that was at once permanent, colourless, 
and capable of rendering accurately the most minute 

Their painting was in principle similar to glass 
painting, in that the transparent tints were illuminated 
by light shining through them. To attain the most 
brilliant results, every care was taken to ensure first 
of all that the ground was a brilliant white, which would 
reflect every possible atom of light which fell upon it 
through the thin pigment. Well-prepared gesso, ren- 
dered unabsorbent to avoid the risk of staining, gave 
this brightness, and was laid on panels much more 
frequently than on canvas. 

No less care was given to the pigments, and the 
vehicle used to apply and preserve them, perfect 
clearness and transparency being the ideals, so that 
the colours when spread over the white ground might 
have the luminous and gem-like quality of fine stained 
glass. The unfinished picture of St. Barbara by John 
Van Eyck in the Antwerp Gallery shows clearly how the 
Flemish masters worked. The design was first care- 
fully drawn on the gesso ground, perfect in all its 
details, and the painting was then executed piece by 
piece, each part being finished before the next was 
started. The panel was sometimes toned with a wash 
of pale colour, often a flesh tint, before the actual 
painting w as started. This tone served to fix the 


lines of the drawing, and to modify the extreme white- 
ness of the gesso. When finished the painting was 
exposed to the sun, not so much to dry the pigment, 
as to extract the excess of oil, which otherwise would 
have accumulated near the surface in course of time, 
and would have given the work a yellowish tone. 

The bleaching action of sunlight upon the oils used 
in painting is not always remembered. Yet the letters 
of Rubens, were other evidence wanting, make it 
plain that this bleaching was an essential part of 
Northern technique. The oils used in painting, how- 
ever carefully they may be clarified and refined, tend 
with the lapse of years to rise to the surface of a 
painting and form a semi-resinous coating of brown 
or yellow, which may preserve the pigments under- 
neath, but certainly darkens their tone and destroys 
their freshness. The painter is thus compelled to get 
rid of every superfluous atom of oil in his picture, if 
he wishes it to retain its pristine brightness. 

The transparent method of oil painting practically 
implied the use of colour in a liquid state, so that the 
amount of oil would have been a serious danger if no 
steps had been taken to remove it. The practice of 
exposing pictures to sunshine was a perfect remedy 
for the disease ; indeed, if the sunning be continued 
long enough it is said to remove the oil so completely 
that the work assumes the dry matt surface and 
quality of tempera. It continued only for a reasonable 


time it not only removes the superfluous oil, but under 
favourable conditions leaves the picture with a smooth 
enamelled surface, which makes varnishing unneces- 
sary. So brilliant, indeed, does the effect sometimes 
become that one is tempted to wonder whether the 
medium of the Van Eycks contained any varnish at 
all, and whether their results were not produced simply 
with linseed oil and sunshine. An absorbent ground 
was occasionally tried in later times, so that the oil 
might sink down into the gesso instead of rising to the 
surface, but with no good result. The oil stained the 
gesso and destroyed its brightness, while, owing 
to the absorption from below, it had to be used in 
much greater quantities, so that the remedy in the end 
proved worse than the disease. 

In Italy the process of painting was much simplified 
by natural causes. In the first place the general dry- 
ness of the climate made it unnecessary to preserve 
pigments from damp by locking them up with a 
quantity of oil and varnish. A thinner and more 
volatile medium (such as Venice turpentine dissolved 
in an essential oil) was commonly used. This dried 
" matt ", and the picture was completed with a coat of 
amber or other varnish. Even when linseed oil was 
used, the warmth of the Italian climate rendered the 
process of sunning very short, so that the Italians had 
not to take the same precautions against yellowing that 
were required north of the Alps. T\ie works of our 


own painter, Richard Wilson, are an excellent illustra- 
tion of the difference. His early landscapes painted 
in the warm dry Italian air are fresh and bright ; his 
later pictures painted in the dark and foggy atmo 
sphere of London are always yellowish, because the 
linseed oil which he used has never been dried out of 

In Northern Europe the method of the Van Eycks 
was applied to a much wider range of subjects than 
they had attempted, by masters like the elder Bruegel 
and Dilrer; the former, indeed, using it with a raci- 
ness and vigour which prepared the way for Rubens. 
The practice of Rubens differed from that of his fore- 
runners in more than one respect. On the white 
ground he laid in a complete chiaroscuro study in trans- 
parent brown, so strong in tone that its shadows 
would serve for the shadows of the subsequent painting. 
Over this the colours were laid thinly, except in the 
lights and the half-lights, where opaque pigment was 
used in considerable body. His method in this re- 
spect was just the contrary of that of the early masters. 
Their lights, being obtained by a slight tinting of the 
luminous ground, were the thinnest part of their 
pictures, while their shadows were often the thickest. 

Among the Dutch painters Teniers may be men- 
tioned as a consistent worker on the principle of 
Rubens, but Rembrandt and most of the other masters, 
although they use transparent colour freely, use opaque 


colours with equal freedom, and what I have termed 
the mixed method became the established way of paint- 
ing in oil. Not until we come to the landscapes of 
Gainsborough do we see a notable revival of trans- 
parent work. 

The change that was effected slowly in Northern 
Europe came about much more rapidly in the South. 
In spite of the interest created by the Flemish method 
of oil painting when it was first popularised in Italy by 
Antonello da Messina, it seems to have been rarely 
or never employed by other Italian artists, except as a 
means of enriching a design already begun in tempera. 
With the artists of the ripe Renaissance the tempera 
foundation was dispensed with ; but at the same time 
the use of opaque and semi-opaque pigments became 

Thus in the Venetian School we find the exquisite 
transparent oil painting of the time of John Bellini and 
the young Giorgione, executed upon a tempera ground. 
The tempera ground survives in the later work of 
Giorgione, and in the early work of Titian, but there, 
already, we see the use of opaque and semi-opaque 
colours creeping in ; till, in the mature work of Titian, 
the painting becomes so solid that the luminous ground 
plays quite a subordinate part, or is entirely hidden. 

When we ask ourselves how this delightful mode of 
painting, with its unique charm of gem-like colour, and 
those qualities of limpidity and precision which make 


the works of its earlier practitioners among the most 
delightful of the world's art products, came to be super- 
seded all over Europe, the answer is not far to seek. 

The beauties of the Flemish method were accom- 
panied with certain limitations which made it unsuit- 
able to the taste of the full Renaissance. It was 
essentially a method for small panels: the sixteenth 
century required large decorative canvases. It made 
alterations in design unsatisfactory if not impossible : 
the sixteenth century demanded a less inelastic 
method, affording facilities for free improvisation. Its 
capacity, too, for delicate detail was unaccompanied 
by a capacity for suggesting varieties of texture equal 
to that of solid pigment : while its exquisite rendering 
of transparent air left it still unable to represent the 
mysterious vaporous effects of atmosphere which an 
age bent on realism had discovered. 

Realism, in fact, was responsible for the discarding 
of the Flemish method. It could delineate facts, but 
for interpreting the broad effects of nature's air and 
sunshine, and for suggesting the solidity and texture 
of natural substances, translucent or opaque colours 
were convenient, quite apart from the increased 
breadth of handling that their employment seemed 
to place within the painter's reach. As frequently 
happens, the point of transition between the trans- 
parent and the solid method is the point at which we 
find some of the most perfect works of art ; so it is in 


the early pictures of Titian, and the later pictures of 
Rubens, that the balance between gem-like brilliancy 
and pearly coolness of colour, between delicacy and 
breadth, between decorative splendour and harmonj 
with natural appearances, is most consummately pre- 

The capacities of more solid methods of painting 
proved various enough to occupy all the chief masters 
of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and it 
was only in England, in the hands of Gainsborough, 
that the Flemish technique was for a moment revived. 
In some of Gainsborough's later landscapes, such as 
The Market Cart in the National Gallery, and to a less 
degree in some of his portraits, we again meet with 
thin transparent painting that depends almost wholly 
for its effect upon the luminous ground underneath it. 
Here we find the transparency allied with a looseness 
and freedom of brushwork comparable to that of 
Rubens, and to new splendours of glowing colour. 

Then in the early first half of the nineteenth century 
we find another great English colourist, Turner, 
gradually discarding the solid method of his youth, and 
painting thinly, upon canvases loaded with a prepara- 
k ion of thick flake white, those marvellous visions which 
have had such a profound influence upon the tone and 
feeling of modern landscape. The series of Turner's 
studies in the Tate Gallery is enough, by itself, to indi- 
cate that the transparent method, with hardly any 


essential modification from the Flemish practice, may, 
when skilfully used, render effects of light and colour 
and atmosphere as brilliantly as the most forcible and 
scientific Impressionism, retaining all the while all that 
suavity of handling and texture which counts for so 
much in decorative effect, but which solid painting has 
to forego. 

The early work of the Pre-raphaelites points the 
same moral. Here, as we learn from Mr. Holman 
Hunt, the canvas was covered with a thin coat of flake 
white mixed with a very little varnish, and on this 
luminous foundation, before it was thoroughly dry, the 
colour was applied thinly and lightly, each part being 
finished completely at one sitting. The result was a 
force and luminosity of colouring which, even now, 
make the Pre-raphaelite pictures more powerful than 
anything except the works of the primitive masters, 
and at the time of their first exhibition may have been 
responsible for some of the hostility they aroused. Of 
this brilliancy Millais's Ophelia in the Tate Gallery is a 
characteristic specimen : it could hang without dis- 
credit by the side of a fine Memling. 

Lastly, among living painters, reference must be 
made to the work of Mr. Orchardson. Here the ground 
appears less luminous, the colour scheme more cautious 
and sober, than was the case with Turner or the Pre- 
raphaelites ; but once more we find a peculiar har- 
monious warmth and a pleasant lightness of touch 


bestowing refinement and distinction on work which 
intrinsically might be thought somewhat deficient in 

Although the record of transparent oil painting since 
the sixteenth century has been thus fragmentary and 
spasmodic, it is none the less remarkable. On exami- 
nation, too, it is clear that its abandonment, first in 
Italy and afterwards in Northern Europe, was due to 
temporary, local or accidental causes. 

The early Flemish masters proved that it was 
eminently suitable for a delicate, if somewhat static, form 
of portraiture, and for the realistic painting of interiors. 
Their success in this latter field was repeated by 
Teniers and Brouwer, while the work of Van Ostade 
and often of De Hooch, is executed upon practically 
the same principle. Rubens proved that with but few 
modifications it was capable of rendering landscape, 
portraits and the nude figure with a freedom which the 
earlier masters lacked, and the results he obtained 
were confirmed by Gainsborough, Turner, and the 
youthful Millais. 

On considering this record three prominent facts 
stand out : 

(i) The most perfect paintings produced by this 
method are easel pictures of moderate size. 

Exceptions will at once occur to the mind, notably 
the large triptych by Hugo van der Goes, which is now 
among the treasures of the Uffizi, and certain works by 


Rubens and Gainsborough. The first-named painting, 
however, is really in the nature of a marvellous " tour 
de force." As a picture pure and simple it is too minute 
for its scale, and with all its perfection looks over- 
crowded. The larger works of Rubens are just those 
in which his departure from the purely transparent 
treatment is most marked where he obtains his effects 
only by using opaque colour much more freely than 
when working on panels or on small canvases. 

The charge of flimsiness is sometimes brought 
against the art of Gainsborough, when he is pitted 
against other great masters, and it is just, when he 
works in transparent colour on a large scale that 
the charge comes within the bounds of reason. With 
him, as with Rubens, the transparent method shows to 
the best advantage in paintings of moderate size, and 
on that scale a very considerable freedom of brushwork 
is admissible. In quite small panels the more precise 
treatment appears to be advantageous, though by n 
means necessary. 

(2) Without exception the paintings produced by 
the transparent method are brilliant in colour, and have 
retained this brilliancy with little or no loss for more 
than four centuries. 

The fact is the more remarkable because this excel- 
lence of colour is not confined to the great masters, 
but is inherited by even their humblest scholars and 
followers. The primitive painters of the Netherlands, 


Germany, and France, are alike in this respect. Even 
with artists who are otherwise clumsy and incompetent 
we invariably find rich and glowing colour, though 
in some cases, notably in Germany, it may incline 
towards violence, and in others may verge upon a 
brownish monochrome. 

Since the transparent method makes even the most 
sober pigment take on a luminous and gem-like quality, 
it would seem specially applicable to subjects where 
the colouring has of necessity to be somewhat quiet. 
It is a common experience that the use of quiet colours 
in solid painting leads to heaviness or dulness ; with 
transparent painting this danger might be avoided. 

Whatever therefore the advantages of transparent 
oil painting to a great colourist, it is evidently a 
process of inestimable value to those whose feeling for 
colour is imperfect or undeveloped. This much at 
least is certain ; in no other form of the graphic arts 
has harmonious colouring been produced so consist- 
ently ; nor has any process of painting hitherto dis- 
covered by the wit of man given promise of greater 

At first sight it would seem as if a solid body of 
strong pigment would be sure to outlast a thin coat. In 
practice just the reverse holds true. To make the 
solid pigment really manageable it has to be mixed 
with a considerable proportion of oil. This oil in 
the course of time forms a yellow film on the surface of 


the picture, so that all solidly painted works tend in 
time to get darker and warmer in tone. If other 
vehicles are used, the results may be still more dis- 
astrous, as the case of Reynolds shows : while the risk 
of the colours acting chemically upon each other is 
naturally augmented with each addition to the com- 
plexity of the processes employed. The early Dutch 
and Flemish paintings have already outlasted the vast 
majority of their successors, and bid fair to shine with 
undiminished lustre when the bulk of the pictures pro- 
duced to-day have become heavy and dull. 

Moreover, the smooth surface of a thinly painted 
picture is no inconsiderable help towards the preserva- 
tion of the colours in their unsullied purity, especially 
at a stage of civilisation when pictures have frequently 
to be kept in dusty, smoky cities. On a smooth sur- 
face dirt finds no hold ; but, if it once gets into the 
crevices of a roughly painted picture, it is practically 
irremovable, and cannot fail in time to become a serious 

(3) The transparent method admits of little or no 

Hence it can only be employed by a painter who 
knows exactly what he wants to do, and has the skill 
to do it at once. If the painter changes his mind and 
tries to alter his design by repainting, the very act of 
repainting involves the destruction of the transparency 
of colour OD which the method depends. So we find 


even very great artists like Van Eyck, Holbein and 
Rubens beginning with a carefully planned design, 
upon which the colours can be laid once for all with 
absolute certainty. The Pre-raphaelites did the same, 
while the far less rigidly compact designs of Gains- 
borough seem to have been made out with some com- 
pleteness in black and white before a start was made 
with the colouring. Turner alone seems to have come 
near to improvising but, even in his case, the position of 
the principal lights was first fixed by a forcible impasto 
of white paint. 

The amount of previous preparation required will 
naturally vary with the aims and powers of the artist. 
Where extreme accuracy of form is required as in por- 
traiture or figure work even the most gifted painter 
will hardly be able to dispense with a careful drawing 
to guide his eye. The less his power and knowledge, 
the more detailed will that underlaying preparation 
have to be, so that little or nothing may be left to 
chance. With many forms of landscape a greater 
freedom would be admissible, but any one who experi- 
ments in the process will be wise to err on the side ot 
caution, and to make very sure of what he is going to 
do before starting work, since to correct or alter is to 
lose transparency, and therewith the raison d'etre of the 

At a time when the easel picture of small or 
moderate size is the form of painting for which 


there is the most general demand, an attempt tc 
revive the method of the early Flemish masters 
might be worth serious consideration. It is more 
exacting than work in solid pigment, and is more 
limited perhaps in its powers of representation ; but 
its possibilities, especially in the matter of colour, are 
great enough to outweigh far heavier disadvantages. 
No process known to the graphic arts tends so 
directly towards unity of colouring; none appears 
capable of greater vitality and freshness of effect ; 
while the modest scale which suits it best should 
prevent this vitality from becoming unrestful. It is 
capable of infinitely delicate gradation; yet, in this 
respect, it must admit some inferiority to processes 
which suggest the variety of substance and texture 
which we find in the mature works of Titian or 
Rembrandt. Gainsborough, however, has proved it as 
capable of tenderness as Rubens proved it capable 
of strength, and Holbein of noble precision, so that 
its limitations may, after all, be more apparent than 


WHAT I have termed the mixed method of oil 
painting, depending in part upon the effect of trans- 
parent or translucent pigment upon a light ground, 
and in part upon the use of opaque pigment, is the 
process of oil painting most commonly employed 
by the old masters. The proportions of transparent 
and opaque elements may vary very considerably. 
Sometimes the transparent element preponderates so 
much as to approach the Flemish method closely. 
At others the pigment may be of such thickness and 
substance as to approach the border line of universal 

Between these extremes we shall find the mature 
work of Titian, Tintoret, and Veronese ; of Rembrandt, 
Van Dyck, Hals, and most of the Dutch masters of 
genre; of Velasquez and Goya, and Whistler; of 
Reynolds, Hogarth, Wilson, Crome, Constable and 
the youthful Turner; of Daumier and Delacroix; of 
Millet, and the painters of Barbizon, in fact of almost 
every painter from the latter part of the sixteenth 



century to the latter half of the nineteenth. Historically 
the process is an extension of transparent oil painting, 
and our study of it must begin with Titian, upon 
whose practice the style, not only of his Italian 
successors, but also that of the chief painters of 
Spain, France, and Northern Europe, for some 
three centuries, is really founded. 

The accounts which have come down to us of 
Titian's method of work are not quite clear (the 
writers appear to have confused his earlier and later 
manners), but it is not impossible, by reading them 
in connection with his paintings, to recognise the 
essential features of his system. In his earlier works 
the whole subject seems first to have been carried 
out, with some completeness, in transparent brown 
upon a luminous ground. This first painting seems 
to have been in tempera, and the ground a white 
ground like those used for tempera. This mono- 
chrome foundation was left to dry thoroughly; then 
the oil colours were applied, sometimes transparent 
and sometimes opaque, as the occasion demanded, 
the tints being frequently softened, spread and blended 
with the fingers. It would seem that the first colour- 
ing was done in broad, flat, map-like masses. The 
work was then put aside for some considerable time, 
all excess 01 oil being bleached out by exposure 
to sunshine. Then the final painting was begun, 
with scumbles of opaque colour and glazes of trans- 



parent colour, each coat being thoroughly dried before 
the application of the next. 

This process produced what are perhaps the most 
beautiful oil paintings in the world, of which the 
Bacchus and Ariadne, in the National Gallery, will 
serve as an example. Two points in connection with 
it deserve to be noticed. In the first place the trans- 
parent brown underpainting was never covered over 
in the shadows, and opaque pigment, when used at all, 
was used in thin translucent films. Hence Titian's 
youthful works retain much of the gem-like beauty 
of colour that is found in Flemish art, and in his 
early manhood this quality is still retained ; though 
it is modified in an ever-increasing degree by the 
cool pearly tones resulting from the rather more 
generous use of opaque pigment. 

Secondly, the perfect drying of each film before 
the application of the next removed all superfluous oil. 
Titian's earlier works, in consequence, have retained 
their brilliancy just as well as the pictures of the 
early Flemish masters have done, although the amount 
of oil required was considerable enough to have 
proved a serious danger, had it not been removed 
by exposure to sunshine. 

In later years Titian discarded this method. Into 
the reasons of the change we need not inquire. Prob- 
ably the necessity of getting through the mass of 
commissions with which he was honoured, possibly 


too the desire of adding certain new qualities to the 
art of painting which increased experience prompted, 
led him to adopt another system of work. 

He now took to making his first painting in solid 
colour, possibly black, white, and red. This prepara- 
tion was of some thickness both in the lights and 
in the shadows. It was carried to such a degree of finish 
that it was practically a monochrome version of the 
picture, and was kept in rather a high key. When this 
preliminary painting was finished and accurate in 
all its parts, it was dried as before, and then the 
colours were added by glazing. In the hands of such 
a great master the method produced noble results ; 
the glazes upon the solid under-paint providing effects 
of rich, broken colour well adapted to the uncertain 
vibrant illumination in which Titian's latest subjects 
are viewed. 

Yet, in clearness, freshness, and brilliancy, these 
works of Titian's old age are undeniably inferior to 
those of his youth, and their sombre grandeur is 
only now and then (as in the superb Pieta in the 
Accademia) a perfect compensation for the vanished 
brightness. The solid underpainting, even if it were 
kept very pale, was infinitely less luminous than the 
older grounds of white gesso, and so reflected much 
less light through the transparent colour subsequently 
laid upon it. In practice, it will be found exceedingly 
difficult to keep this under-painting quite pale. A certain 


amount of force is needed to separate one tone from 
another, yet every increase in force of tone implies 
a corresponding loss of brilliancy in the finished 

What was a difficulty for Titian was a catastrophe 
for his successors, rieing a great draughtsman, he 
could represent solid forms by delicate gradations of 
modelling ; they had to represent them by excess of 
projection. He could, so to speak, model perfectly in 
low relief; they had to use high relief. He could 
finish his solid foundation with one or two paintings, 
and his glazings with one or two more ; they arrived 
at completeness only after many reworkings. Titian's 
pictures in consequence were painted with comparatively 
little oil ; his successors used a great deal of it. He 
was careful to dry his pictures thoroughly between 
every stage ; they frequently seem to have neglected 
this precaution. Titian's work in consequence has 
usually kept its tone fairly well ; the paintings of his 
successors are commonly too black in the shadows and 
too yellow in the lighter parts. 

By tracing this difference in some detail, we can 
see clearly why all oil painting which depends upon an 
elaborate succession of processes is liable to be rather 
dark at the outset, and to grow darker still with time. 
Even if the original be in a somewhat light key froir 
the start, the danger is not entirely removed ; for the 
quantity of oil suspended in the substance of the paint 


will tend, in time, to make the half-tones dull and the 
pale tones yellow. 

Thus it is that the paintings of the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries which have best stood the test of 
time are generally those which were painted most 
swiftly, and upon a light ground. A ground of middle 
tint is convenient for securing unity of tone, and has 
been the fashion with more than one school and period : 
but heaviness and darkness have generally resulted, 
notably in the case of those who worked on the grounds 
of strong red which at one time seem to have been in 
common use. 

Yet a strong red ground may sometimes be service- 
able. Constable, for many of his paintings, and for 
the majority of his sketches, employed a foundation of 
strong reddish-brown. In his case it served both as a 
connecting link between the detached touches by which 
his studies were built up, and as a contrast to the cool 
greens and blues and grays that he favoured, which 
might otherwise have looked cold. It must be remem- 
bered, too, that Constable generally painted with a 
full brush, so that his pigment was thick enough to 
prevent the dark foundation from lowering the tones 
materially. In one of his early experiments on a large 
scale, the famous White Horse, he did use thin pig- 
ment over a strong warm ground, with the result that 
the picture has lost its first brightness. 

Among subsequent artists, Whistler may be men- 


tioned as one who has suffered materially from the 
same cause. Being attracted by the delightful effect 
which blue or gray produce when spread thinly upon 
a dark ground, Whistler frequently used them in this 
way, with the result that some of his most delightful 
paintings are darkening steadily year by year, as the 
ground begins to tell more and more through the deli- 
cate films of paint laid over it. 

Though Van Dyck learned many of the secrets of 
his art from the example of Titian and the great Vene- 
tians, during the years which he spent in Italy, he 
could never forget what he had learned in youth from 
Rubens. His method is a dexterous blend of the 
transparent painting of Northern Europe with the rich- 
ness and variety of quality characteristic of the South, 
much of his work being based upon a foundation of 
monochrome, usually cool and silvery compared with 
the glowing monochrome of Rubens, light and spark- 
ling compared with the preparatory work of the Italians. 
With his practice that of many of the best Dutch 
masters may be classed, Rembrandt and Hals being 
two remarkable exceptions. 

Rembrandt's practice varies greatly at different 
periods of his life, but in its most characteristic phase 
it resembles the practice of Rubens far more nearlj 
than a casual inspection might suggest. Instead, how- 
ever, of leaving the surface of the canvas to serve as a 
ground for all but the highest lights, as Rubens did 


Rembrandt first worked out a monochrome sketch 
in a fiercely modelled impasto containing much solid 
white. Upon this impasto, when it had dried thoroughly, 
he appears to have painted his picture, largely in 
transparent colour, but using opaque colour freely 
whenever the effect required it. Even the high lights 
were glazed, and the shadows being painted with rich 
dark tones, brought his works into a golden harmony, 
to which any slight yellowing caused by the oily vehicle 
employed could do no very serious damage. 

Velasquez and Hals solved the problem in another 
way ; perhaps accidentally. By painting alia prima, or 
nearly so, upon light-coloured canvas, they succeeded 
in freeing themselves to a great extent from the difficulty 
which attends more elaborate processes of oil painting. 
One coat of paint, applied thinly and swiftly, may con- 
tain a good deal of oil, but the chances are it will 
contain much less than a picture that is built up by 
successive stages and repeated glazings, each preceded 
perhaps by " oiling up." The method of Velasquez is 
not so uniformly direct as that of Hals, but both agree 
in approximating to consummately skilful sketching, 
and are therefore hailed as the pioneers of the direct 
painting which is the fashion at the present day. 

I have pointed out elsewhere* that the method of 
Hals attains its swiftness and spirit by the sacrifice of 
realism of colour. In the slightly less direct method 
* Burlington Magazine, January 1908, vol. xii. pp. 002-205. 


of Velasquez the colours of nature are matched much 
more truly ; indeed his fame rests on the fact that no 
one has combined such decision and finality of brush- 
work with so much naturalism and pictorial good taste 
Something of these qualities survives in his country- 
man Goya, through whom Velasquez comes into touch 
with Whistler and Manet. In the latter we meet with 
attempts to surprise more garish effects of daylight, 
and a less dignified humanity, which prepare the way 
(via Carolus Duran) for Sargent. 

In England, the moment the English became painters 
at all, the value of this direct painting was discovered 
by Hogarth. His finished pictures are not always 
completely satisfactory, but his rare oil sketches are 
among the most perfect products of the English or of 
any other school. As with Hals and Velasquez, the 
colour-scheme is modest. The ground is usually a 
warm gray, upon which Hogarth's touches of white 
and lilac, and rose pink and dullgreen, tell with exquisite 
freshness. Had it not been for the coming of Reynolds 
a new art might possibly have risen from these begin- 
nings, for which a certain daintiness of touch and 
sober freshness of colour in one or two of Hogarth's 
forgotten contemporaries seem to be preparing the way. 

Nor can the achievement of Wilson be overlooked. 
Wilson was originally fired by the example of the 
degenerate heirs of a Venetian tradition; not the. 
elaborate tradition of Titian* but a later and more 


direct realism, retaining however something of the old 
Venetian feeling for colour, which in landscape was 
represented first by Canaletto, then by the more flimsy 
yet enchanting Guardi. With Guardi, indeed, Wilsov 
has more in common than with his immediate teachers, 
Zuccarelli and Vernet, both in his breadth of design and 
in his feeling for colour. 

Wilson's pictures seem almost always to have been 
painted directly, but he used large quantities of linseed 
oil as a diluent. In his Italian pictures, as already 
mentioned, this was usually dried out by the climate ; 
in his English pictures it has too often remained, to 
the serious detriment of the tone and colour. 

The practice of Reynolds put an end, for the time 
being, to all these direct methods, so far at least as figure- 
painting was concerned. Though the names of Michel- 
angelo and Raphael dominate his " Discourses," and 
though his notes show his interest in the great Vene- 
tians and in Rubens, his paintings indicate a student of 
Rembrandt and a worshipper of Correggio. Under the 
inexhaustible variety of his poses, of his schemes of 
lighting and of his patterns of colour, these two 
influences survive. Yet neither the profound concen- 
tration of Rembrandt nor the pearly flesh tones of 
Correggio were enough for Reynolds. To Rembrandt's 
mystery of shadow he wished to add a Venetian splen- 
dour of colour, to Correggio's silvery light he wished 
to add a richness of substance previously unknown to 


oil painting. To solve the first problem he indulged 
in repeated experiments in glazing with almost ever} 
vehicle, safe or unsafe, that is known to the painter's 
art; to solve the second he resorted to equally 
dangerous experiments in pictorial cookery. 

The result was not so wholly disastrous as his 
critics have sometimes made out. Many of his 
pictures certainly are mere ghosts of their former 
selves ; few, and those not always his most interesting 
works, have stood the ordeal of time without some 
marked deterioration. Yet occasionally Reynolds did 
get very near to both his ideals, and even where the 
dangerous methods he employed have produced their 
natural result, and left us hardly more than a shadow 
of some once glowing canvas, the shadow is still more 
attractive than the successes of his pupils and followers. 
Indeed we may sometimes suspect that Reynolds did. 
not wholly dislike the pleasant variety of texture, which 
a moderate craquelure provides. 

However, quite apart from the asphaltum with 
which he sometimes enriched his shadows, and the 
wax with which he softened and " fattened " his lights, 
the mere practice of depending for effect upon succes- 
sive paintings with very liquid colour was, in itself, 
enough to ensure the ultimate darkening of the 
shadows. Yet the beauty of Sir Joshua's results 
blinded his contemporaries to this radical defect, and 
painting in England for some thirty years was practi- 


cally buried underneath the " brown sauce," to which 
his example led the way. We see it even in the early 
work of Watts; it darkens much of the best work of 
Wilkie, but its effect on landscape was still more fatal, 
and therefore, perhaps, led the more rapidly to a reaction 
in that province. 

Crome, the head ot the Norwich School, had the 
good fortune to receive only the training of a house, 
coach and sign painter. His early work is thus often 
as broad and direct as that of Velasquez. The influ- 
ences of Wilson, Gainsborough, and Hobbema make 
themselves felt in later years, and his methods become 
elaborate ; but Crome's certainty of hand enabled him 
to obtain his effects so swiftly, that his most highly 
finished works retain much of the quality of direct 

Cotman is no less masterly in his use of oil paint, 
sometimes approaching Crome in tonality, but more 
usually preferring a much bolder range of colour, in 
which strong blues play a prominent part. Were his 
paintings in oil less rare they would be more generally 
studied, for in their austere reliance upon definite 
pattern they stand almost alone in English art. 

Coming next to Turner and Constable, we find that 
Turner's youthful works are elaborately executed with 
much glazing. In his middle period the ground 
becomes lighter and the pigment thinner, till at last 
his desire for brightness compels him practically to 


become a worker on the Flemish method, though he 
uses it with a freedom and daring of which even 
Rubens never dreamed. His earlier works, originally 
full of strong contrasts, have darkened considerably 
owing to the elaboration of their technique, so that 
such things as the Calais Pier, with all their power, are 
too heavy to be pleasant decoration. After a time 
Turner gradually discovered that much of the fault lay 
with the ground and, by working on a foundation ot 
thick flake white, he was enabled to use even opaque 
colour without losing luminosity. As time goes on 
the loading of the ground becomes heavier and heavier, 
while the superposed colours become thinner and 
thinner, till his method at last becomes a transparent 

Constable also began with elaborate methods and 
repeated glazings, and employed them in his pictures 
right up to his thirty-fifth year. His sketches from 
nature however almost from the first were painted 
directly, without retouching, and vary from his youth 
to his old age only in the thickness of their pigment, 
and the freedom of their handling. After a while he 
learned to build up large pictures on a brown founda- 
tion of the traditional kind, not hesitating to employ 
glazing where necessary, but minimising its tendency 
to darken by taking care that the body of light pigment 
beneath was considerable, and often working into the 
glaze itself with cool opaque colour. In his later 


years, desiring still greater force and brightness, he 
used the palette knife to apply touches and scrapings 
of pure colour, and so became a pioneer of modern 
solid painting; although, as he retained the brown 
monochrome sketch as the foundation of his design, 
his principle was really more allied to the Old Masters 
than to the Impressionists. 

In France the primitive Flemish tradition was re- 
placed in the sixteenth century by the Italian style. 
Then the influence of Rubens was felt, and these two 
traditions dominate most French work up to the nine- 
teenth century. Poussin may stand as the great repre- 
sentative of the Italian Renaissance, Watteau as the 
heir of the Flemish one. Chardin used the full 
resources of both transparent and opaque colour with 
consummate artistic power, but it will be noticed that, 
while some of his most directly painted pictures have 
lasted perfectly, those where the workmanship is more 
elaborate, and the pigment heavily loaded and glazed, 
have cracked and darkened. The swift brushwork of 
Fragonard has on the whole lasted much better. 

The pioneers of the Romantic movement in the 
nineteenth century, Gros and Gericault, retained so 
much of the oily elaborate manner that their pictures 
are now almost uniformly brown and dark. Delacroix 
had the advantage of seeing Constable's work, and this 
taught him to aim at brightness ; but he sought for it 
rather by painting his lights thickly, than by giving 


attention to the luminosity of his ground. Hence, > - 
though most of his work is directly and forcibly painted, 
the shadows have become heavy. Both Daumier and 
Millet often suffer from the same cause, the darkening 
in the case of Millet being often augmented by the 
frequency with which he re-worked his canvases. 

Theodore Rousseau's practice in landscape was not 
dissimilar from that of Millet, and his work generally 
appears to us now in a more sombre guise than it did 
to his contemporaries. Corot's method has lasted 
better. At first he painted entirely in solid paint. 
Then shaking off the dryness of his early manner, he 
gradually advanced to a lighter style. Upon a luminous 
white foundation he appears to have built up his picture 
in transparent monochrome. When this was dry, 
colours were applied in thin films, forcible impasto 
being reserved for the high lights. 

Lastly a word may be said of Monticelli, Courbet, 
and Manet, through whom we come to the Impres- 
sionists. In the best works of Monticelli we find 
glazes of the richest colours applied over luminous 
white, and then retouched with opaque colour in con- 
siderable body. The effect is striking in a somewhat 
incoherent way, and where the ground has been strong 
enough his pictures have stood well. Courbet's methods 
vary much, being sometimes dependent upon very thick 
opaque pigment, modified at the last by a glaze, at 
others being thin and direct. Had his grounds been 


brighter these last would have been more uniformly 
well preserved ; the former class remain powerful but 
rather heavy in effect. The direct painting favoured 
by Manet in his earlier period has darkened a little, 
perhaps, but otherwise remains unaltered. His paint 
seems to have contained no more oil than was needed 
to make it manageable. Mutatis mutandis his method 
might be compared with that of Sargent, though his 
colour-schemes, being much more deliberate, should 
suffer less from the slight dulling and " leatheriness " 
which come with time than Sargent's complicated 
naturalism may do. 

I have sketched the progress of the mixed method 
of oil painting at some length, because it is the method 
employed by the great majority of working artists. 
There are good reasons for its popularity. It is 
capable of the utmost variety of expression : permit- 
ting the plastic suggestiveness and luminous force of a 
solid impasto to be combined with the richness of thin, 
liquid and transparent colour. The works of Rem- 
brandt and Reynolds exhibit many illustrations of the 
felicitous blending of these extremes. Indeed, it seems 
at first sight to possess the advantages of both the 
opaque and transparent methods, without their dis- 
advantages ; and the long roll of the great artists who 
have employed it, is sufficient testimony to its practical 

Not only does it possess variety of substance and 


texture, but much of this variety can be obtained at a 
single sitting. The use of thin liquid pigment enables 
the artist to spread his shadows broadly and rapidly : 
while the lighter portions of the subject can be sug- 
gested with equal ease by the use of forcible impasto. 
It is thus almost perfectly adapted for making sketches 
and studies. 

For elaborate painting too it offers many advantages. 
The design can be first sketched in ; then any number 
of subsequent paintings can be executed upon it ; the 
most elaborate effects of quality can be attained by 
judicious use of glazing and scumbling ; unsatisfactory 
passages can be altered; the technique of a picture 
may in fact be made just as simple or complex as the 
painter chooses. If he be sure of himself, and his sub- 
ject is one which is best treated by direct painting, he 
can be direct ; if it calls for extreme subtlety of 
modelling or colour, as in the case of certain kinds of 
figure and landscape painting, he can refine ad in- 
finitum upon his first conception. 

Yet, in considering its record as a whole, one un- 
pleasant fact has to be reckoned with. A very large 
proportion of the pictures thus painted fall short of 
complete success , more still are to some extent lacking 
in decorative beauty. In the case of transparent oil 
painting, and of tempera too, the feebler men produce 
pictures that have some outward attractiveness of 
general colour. Their pictures may be ill-conceived, 


ill-drawn, and tamely painted, yet they make excellent 

In the case of the mixed method, it is hardly an 
exaggeration to say that the only pleasant pictures 
made by its help have been made by great masters. 
All other men, clever and dull, proficient and incom- 
petent alike, have produced pictures which are rarely 
pleasant in colour, and are usually heavy in tone. If 
we pause for a moment to recall the thousands and 
thousands of dark and disagreeable canvases for 
which the method is responsible, we may begin to see 
that, while it has been of service to a number of great 
artists, it has been the reverse of helpful to nearly all 
who have fallen short of supreme excellence. Their 
failure is accompanied with a colouring that is either 
too cold or too heavy, and with a tone that is dull and 
dead, the latter fault being practically universal. 

The cause of this failure may not be apparent at first 
sight, but a little consideration gives us two or three 
facts to work upon. In the first place we often find 
sketches and slight studies which have retained their 
freshness, while the finished pictures of the very 
same artists are uniformly dark and heavy,, Secondly 
the artists who have used the method with success, 
have either approximated in their practice to the 
transparent method, by painting lightly over a 
luminous ground ; or have painted alia printa so that 
their pictures have the quality of very brilliant 



sketches. Van Dyck and Hals, Velasquez and Goya, 
Watteau and the Barbizon painters, Turner and Cromc. 
might be instanced as examples of the former practice ; 
the paintings of Tiepolo and Canaletto, of Guardi and 
Whistler, and the oil sketches of Constable as examples 
of the latter. 

Again, those who have made copies of the work of 
the old masters will have noticed that, after a time, the 
copies usually become heavier, browner, and duller 
than the originals ; especially where the painting pro- 
cess has been elaborate, and has necessitated the use of 
much oil, or has been used upon a dark ground. So 
constant is this change, that it is usually possible to 
distinguish at once between an original painting and a 
copy simply by the difference of the tone ; the original 
being always the fresher in effect of the two. 

It is generally recognised by painters that this dark- 
ening is due to the action of the oil mixed with the 
pigments, and the fear of it has driven many moderns 
who paint in a high key to use their colours as dry as 
possible, and in considerable body, so that the risk of 
future change may be minimised. 

Oil, as already indicated more than once, tends, after 
a time, to rise to the surface of a picture and settle 
there in the form of a yellowish film.* The more oil 

* I have throughout used oil as meaning linseed, poppy- or nut- 
oil. These were the oils commonly used by the old masters, and 
the best prepared colours at the present day are generally ground 


the picture contains the thicker this film will be, and 
the greater the subsequent lowering of the tone. 

Even a picture painted alia prima may suffer 
seriously from this cause if it be painted either with too 
much medium, or with too great a body of solid colour. 
The case of Richard Wilson has already been men- 
tioned in this connection. Thick, solid paint as it 
comes from the tube may not alter very much, but the 
amount of oil contained in ordinary tube colours is so 
large that, if they are used in any considerable body, 
enough oil will ultimately come to the surface to dull 
all the more delicate tones. The painters who, like 
Guardi or Constable, have worked on reddish grounds, 
have thus to sail constantly between the Scylla of 
painting too thin, in which case the ground will show 
through in the course of time (as Whistler's dark 
grounds have done), and the Charybdis of painting too 
thickly, and thereby deadening their colour. 

On the whole it is evident that a firm white ground, 
if necessary veiled with some simple tint, is the first 
condition of safety in this form of oil painting. Next, 
the painting should be as thin as possible ; if done alia 
prima, so much the better. If subsequent paintings 

in linseed oil. Thus, although a painter may mix his colours with 
varnish or petroleum or turpentine to get particular effects, or to 
secure ease is manipulation, his pigment will contain a large 
amount of oil ng?, even if he dispenses with all diluents, and 
dries his taoo colours on blotting-paper before applying them 
much oU will still be left. 


and repaintings are necessary, each should be thoroughly 
dried and bleached before the next one is started 
Except on these conditions, the mixed method of oil 
painting cannot be regarded as likely to retain its 

The brushes used by painters have so direct an influence upon 
their work as to deserve a few words of notice. Very large brushes 
suggest breadth but may lead to vacuity : very small brushes 
suggest finish but may lead to feebleness. This last defect is the 
one most feared by the painters of to-day, so the brushes they us 
are neither very small nor very soft. Yet exclusive devotion to 
middle-sized brushes has disadvantages of its own. In the first 
place it tends to produce monotony of touch, a failing pardonable 
in a large mural decoration but tiresome in the case of small 
pictures where the brushwork is clearly seen. Again, and this is 
more serious, it makes real delicacy of handling impossible, and 
thereby sins against the condition of infinity, as it sins against the 
condition of vitality by its monotonous character. Logic would 
thus seem to advise the employment of large brushes for laying in 
the masses of a picture, and of small brushes to complete the details, 
these last having points fine enough for the most precise drawing 
where precision is needed. The use of softer brushes than tht 
ordinary hog tools for passages of special delicacy i also suggested 


To dispense entirely with the light reflected from a 
luminous ground by working in thick opaque pigment 
is a practice essentially modern. Earlier painters had 
often worked thickly, but this thick painting had only 
been a preparation for subsequent glazes of transpar- 
ent colour which made the real picture. In the modern 
process there is no glazing, and the effect is obtained 
by the light reflected from fresh masses of solid colour. 
The process is a popular one, especially on the Con- 
tinent, and has the backing of the impressionists, 
and of two great modern masters, Watts and Puvis de 

Let us see first of all how far the method accords 
with our four pictorial conditions. To Unity it is 
obviously favourable. The matt surface of the solid 
paint has fewer variations of texture and quality, 
and is less likely to be broken up by extreme con- 
trasts of tone, than that of canvases where liquid and 
solid pigment are used side by side. For the same 
reason we may assume that the condition of Repose can 



also be easily fulfilled on the opaque system, although 
the liberal use of primary colours by its modern ex- 
ponents might lead us to think otherwise. But the very 
qualities which make unity and repose come so natur- 
ally, are adverse when Vitality and Infinity have to be 
considered. The solid matt surface of the paint is as 
opposed to the one as its comparative intractabiiity, 
owing to the absence of a diluent, is opposed to the other. 
The men who have used the opaque method with 
success have overcome these difficulties in different 
ways. The Impressionists, as a group, neutralise the 
natural density and heaviness of their pigment by a 
combination of devices, which in their day were new to 
art but which have now become common property. In 
the first place they aim at compensating for want of 
vitality in pigment, by exceptional vitality in colour, 
handling, and design. They use only primary colours ; 
and they avoid dulling their brightness by any mixing. 
When a compound tone is needed, the artist mentally 
resolves it into its primary constituents, and applies 
small touches of those pure primaries side by side on 
his canvas, till this mosaic or patchwork matches the 
tint he requires. With this brilliant vibrant method of 
applying his colour there is allied, in good Impressionist 
pictures, a capricious vigour of design, suggested no 
doubt by Japanese art. And the combination is cer- 
tainly never devoid of vitality. Where it does fail is 
in the matter of infinity. 


Even with its most skilled and gifted practitioners the 
method can never be more than a somewhat rough and 
ready process spirited, luminous and vibrant perhaps, 
but lacking in those refinements and subtleties to which 
other methods of painting owe so large a part of their 
charm. I think it is for this reason that we find Impres- 
sionist painting just a little empty, and lacking that 
richness of content which is so considerable an element 
in the pleasure we take in any picture. The great 
Impressionists, it is true, seem to have recognised this 
danger, and have worked on a scale so modest that the 
peril is minimised ; but their followers have been less 
wise. They have attempted to paint large canvases on 
principles which, as we have seen, are applicable only 
to small ones, with the result that no violent forcing of 
the colour or the design is enough to counterbalance 
the deadly monotony of raw pigment and uniform spotty 
handling, displayed on a surface several square feet (or 
yards) in extent. 

Of all the forms of painting which the world has 
hitherto seen I know of none more wholly intolerable. 
The sugared illustrations of once popular Academicians 
may long be appreciated on the walls of a nursery ; 
the religious and heroic paintings of the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries may long decorate the dark 
coiners of a stair or a private chapel j but this par- 
ticular development of Impressionism seems to serve 
no conceivable use, as it conveys no reasonable 


pleasure, and I think time will consign it to that remote 
and mysterious exile in which the academic art of early- 
Victorian Germany has been buried out of sight. 

The qualities of unity and repose, which it naturally 
possesses, render the opaque method particularly suit- 
able for decorative painting, and it is therefore hardly 
strange that its greatest achievement hitherto should 
have been in decorative work. The large mural pic- 
tures of Puvis de Chavannes are perhaps the most 
notable specimens of their class since the day of Tiepolo, 
and now that fresco has repeatedly proved its inability 
to withstand the cold and damp of a northern climate, 
his practice will probably be followed in future as the 
most perfect available substitute. 

We have seen how the natural difficulties of the 
method are want of vitality and of infinity : how the Im- 
pressionists conquered the first difficulty but not always 
the second ; and how their followers have come to almost 
complete disaster when attempting to work on any but 
a small scale. Puvis de Chavannes succeeded in con- 
quering both difficulties, and that when painting on an 
immense scale. 

To obtain vitality the Impressionists forced their 
colour to the most brilliant pitch which could be obtained 
with paint. This device was endurable enough in a 
panel one or two feet square, but for a large mural 
painting it was out of the question. In two early works 
at Amiens, more especially in the IVar, Puvis de 


Chavannes proved that he could obtain vitality when he 
chose to do so by force of colour, but the result there 
achieved did not satisfy him. In his opinion decorative 
work needed even more repose than those stately 
paintings possess. So his later decorations are all con- 
ceived in the palest possible key, where such opposi- 
tions of colour as do occur cannot ever be very strong 
or sensational. 

Hence the master relies for vitality almost wholly 
upon the planning of his subject, and upon the robust 
contours of the Arcadian humanity with which his 
canvases are so largely occupied. The movement of 
these massive figures, even when it is most stately and 
slow, is suggestive of huge physical strength held in 
reserve; the full supple forms of the women and 
children exhale a sense of the same full-blooded well- 
being, the same impregnable health. This spirit of re- 
strained power breathes from the landscape also ; from 
the massive rocks tufted here and there with sprays of 
herbage, from the sweep of the low hills to some quie 
French water side, or from the poplar shafts that rise 
like pillars against the winter sky. The stimulus is 
heightened by the exquisite use made of silhouette. 
Where one broad restful mass meets its neighbour, we 
find the drawing of the edges alive with exquisite 
detail, so that the sharp fresh contour of a flower 
or a cluster of leaves as it cuts against the sky, 
seems to acquire a new virtue by the strangeness of its 


appearance in a world where all else is so large and 

A certain unexpectedness, too, in the very planning 
of these great works constantly stimulates and per- 
plexes the mind. In this compositional subtlety, this 
knowledge which disdains all the recognised tricks of 
design, we have not only a proof of the painter's 
creative originality, but also one of the means by which 
he gets the utmost value out of his materials, and 
produces a complex elusive whole out of elements 
ostensibly simple and austere. The colours which he 
affects, faint gray and lilac, cool green, cool brown and 
fresh pallid white, have the same strangeness, the same 
elusiveness ; indeed, the more we study the work of 
Puvis de Chavannes, the more shall we be impressed 
with the richness of content and the noble liveliness 
which underlie his seeming coldness, restraint, and 
abstraction. No mural decoration for large buildings 
has ever observed the conditions proper to such work 
with more complete success ; and the style and method 
invented by him cannot fail to be followed and, perhaps 
(if another great genius is born), developed still further, 
wherever intelligent persons desire public buildings to 
be intelligently adorned. 

Of Watts we may speak more briefly. His use of 
opaque colour dates from the latter part of his life, 
and was preceded by long years of reliance upon 
traditional methods. It is said to have been adopted 


from his desire to avoid the darkening caused by the 
use of too much oil, and not with any view of making 
a radical change in handling, or to produce some novel 
effect, as was the method used by the Impressionists. 
Nor does it resemble the deliberate laying of one thick 
even tone by the side of another by which Puvis de 
Chavannes constructed his pictures. It is based rather 
on the regular method of oil painting, except in so far 
as the pigment is applied almost dry instead of in a 
semi-liquid state, shadows and mixed tones being 
obtained by crumbling one colour over another instead 
of by liquid glazes. 

The paintings produced by this method rank among 
the finest products of the English school. Often they 
have obvious faults ; but they possess also the rarest 
virtues. The sense of original design is intermittent, 
many pictures recalling faintly the standard composi- 
tions of earlier times, while others rank in originality 
with those of Puvis de Chavannes, and they could have 
no higher praise. The ideals are always nodle, though 
here and there they are overcharged with sentiment 
The colour is rich and superb, yet with all its splendoui 
is often reminiscent of the great Venetians rather than 
actually inventive. Yet the balance and fusion of fine 
qualities in the best work of Watts is so complete that 
we need not ask whether the creative element in his 
genius was really so great as with some other famous 
painters. His best pictures can hang with credit in 


the loftiest company, and that is the quite conclusive 

This method of Watts possesses one exceedingly 
valuable quality. It admits of re-working to an extent 
impossible in other methods, and though this may 
sometimes lead to heaviness or fumbling (from which 
Watts himself does not always escape), it also gives 
confidence to the hand and mind, thereby encouraging 
freedom of treatment. It should be specially valuable 
to those who have to paint easel pictures of consider- 
able size. Not only does it suit the comparative 
lightness of tone which we have seen to be specially 
desirable in the case of large canvases, but the tuning 
of the whole composition into harmony is made much 
easier when the process of retouching, or repainting 
unsatisfactory passages, does not involve the difference 
of surface or texture which accompanies retouching 
by the transparent method. 

The method is also extraordinarily well suited to a 
certain kind of portraiture : not the portraiture which 
calls for a lively sketch, or a flattering piece of mani- 
pulative dexterity, such as the average society man or 
society lady expects, but rather that portraiture of the 
intellect in which Watts holds a place apart from his 
contemporaries. By a method which permits of con- 
stant re-working, of the deliberate addition of subtle 
refinements of modelling to the first broad likeness, a 
great man's inner mind may be suggested upon canvas 


with infinitely more chance of success than by methods 
in which everything depends upon a single coat of paint, 
however keen the eye and skilful the hand of the master 
who applies it. The successive films of colour in 
themselves, too, seem to correspond in some degree to 
the different phases of the sitter's talent and character, 
and thus to give a wider and deeper view of him than 
the most brilliant rendering of his appearance at any 
single moment. 

Of the three methods described, that of Puvis de 
Chavannes is perfectly suited for mural painting, but 
not without some modification, in the matter of opacity 
in the shadows, for easel pictures. In these Puvis 
himself, while retaining his characteristic methods of 
design and treatment, worked much more thinly, the 
colour at times being hardly more than a mere staining 
of the canvas. 

Comparing next the method of Watts with that of 
the Impressionists, it would seem that the advantage 
in general lies with the former. It may not reach quite 
the same pitch of brightness and luminosity ; but the 
slight advantage of the Impressionists in this respect 
is counter-balanced by more serious defects. Neither 
method admits of very high finish ; but that of Watts 
allows of far more refinement of modelling and colour, 
a superiority of great importance in the case of 
elaborate pictures. It permits also of great variety 
and freedom of handling, so that the workmanship has 


never that deadly monotony which causes even the 
great Impressionists to seem rather tedious when their 
work is shown in any quantity, and their followers to 
be positive bores. In point of permanence, too, assum- 
ing that each style is carried out with nearly dry pig- 
ment, so that the risk of yellowing is reduced to a 
minimum, the rough granulated surface of much 
Impressionist work cannot fail in time to be injured far 
more than the other by the accumulation of dust and 
dirt in the crevices of the paint. In connection with 
this matter of dryness, it may be mentioned that Watts, 
in his fear of ultimate yellowing, extracted occasionally 
so much of the oil in his pigment that when the picture 
dried small pieces flaked off. 

Owing to the intractability of dry paint, Watts's 
method would hardly answer for sketching ; nor are 
large flat tones, such as those which occur in the sky 
and are needed in decorative work, so readily produced 
by its aid as by more liquid pigment. These appear 
to be the worst of its defects, and are trifling compared 
with its advantages for the making of elaborate easel 
pictures. Yet painters would be wise, however, to 
employ it in connection with very firm and vigorous 
designs ; otherwise the facility with which it admits of 
re-working may lead to an appearance of fumbling. 


rex? d'o IT p arras KOI reXeuraios 


THE notion that the culminating glory of painting is a 
deceptive imitation is still the aesthetic touchstone of 
the masses; and, modified perhaps by some tags of 
studio jargon, " sincerity," " values," or the like, it still 
passes muster in the best society. The slightest 
acquaintance with what the civilised world has con- 
sented to regard as great painting will show this ideal 
to be false. Had it been true the great painters would 
be known by their obvious resemblance to nature, and 
thereby to each other, as one photograph resembles 

The slightest acquaintance with the history of Art 
will lead to the same conclusion. The cave men who 
drew the well-known groups of reindeer, the mammoth, 
and the terrible cave bear were superb realists, but their 
realism was as far from being imitation as their scratched 
bones are from a photographic print. Out of the total 
mass of visual facts which an animal presented to their 
eyesight, they abstracted one or two, such as the ex- 
ternal contour of the head, trunk and limbs the plact 

241 Q 


and shape of the eye. These facts the scratch of a 
sharp stone on some softer surface would perpetuate ; 
and, once so perpetuated, the imagination could easily 
fill in the colour, the texture of the hide and the minor 
details. It was needless to do more. The beast was 
suggested completely. 

Here at the very birth of art we find the necessity oi 
selection and omission, with the view to emphatic state- 
ment, recognised more generally perhaps than it has ever 
been recognised since. And with this necessity we may 
note another characteristic of primitive art the love of 
rhythm and pattern. The enjoyment of rhythm for its 
own sake appears to be an essential factor in the very 
birth of the art impulse * among savage peoples ; and it 
was only by slow degrees that the pleasant repetition of 
forms which constitutes a simple pattern developed into 
more elaborate decorative efforts, involving definite 
motives derived from natural objects. Rhythm and 
emphatic vitality may thus be regarded as the domi- 
nant qualities in all primitive art. 

" Ah ! " but the objector may say, " this art was un- 
conscious, savage, infantile, imperfect." Let us then 
move some stages further in the history of civilisation, 
when the savage has gathered himself with his neigh- 
bours into a tribe, and when tribes have, in course of 

* The Origin of the Sense of Beauty. By Felix Clay. London : 
Smith. Elder, 1908. 


time, amalgamated into a great state, under the rule of 
kings or priests to whom the painter is a subject or 
servant. This is the state of affairs which, in one form 
or another, existed from the first dawn of civilisation in 
Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean, till the decay of 
the mediaeval powers of Europe allowed free citizens to 
work in free cities. 

This great period of art, in which the outbursts of 
real freedom, as in Greece for example, are local and 
momentary, may be termed the age of Despotic Art. 
The artist was then the servant of his rulers. When 
these were laymen, his business was to celebrate either 
their personal triumphs or those of their warlike ances- 
tors. When his masters were priests, his business was 
to celebrate the triumphs of religion. These two 
branches of Despotic Art, the heroic and the hieratic, 
have thus a similar foundation. They display also a 
similar character and a similar technical treatment. 

That they may impress the popular imagination both 
are as imposing in scale as circumstances will allow. 
Both are plain and straightforward in statement, to catch 
the popular mind. Both are richly coloured, to delight 
the popular eye. To make the significance of each 
figure clear and unmistakable, its contours are marked 
by strong outlines. To give brightness and force to 
the colouring, it is applied in flat tints unbroken by 
shadows. To avoid puzzling the untutored brain, the 
very designs are reduced to the simplest possible terms. 


The figures are as few as will conveniently tell their 
story ; they are surrounded with no more objects than 
are needed to explain their character ; and their pre- 
dominance is never diminished by a realistic landscape 

These characteristics are found alike in the temples 
of Egypt and the palaces of Knossos. For a short time 
they are threatened by the inquiring Hellenic genius; 
then, with the decline of the Western Empire, the 
splendid limitations of mosaic accentuate the Despotic 
convention, and it lasts unchanged to the very end of 
the middle ages. It is not till we come to the time of 
Masaccio and Piero della Francesca that the unearthing 
of classical sculpture, coupled with personal freedom 
for the artist, encourage those experiments in the pre- 
sentation of the human form as something round and 
substantial, which culminate in Leonardo, Michelangelo, 
Correggio, and Raphael. If we look to the far East, 
the prospect will be the same ; except that in China 
the Despotic convention of outline and colour has 
lasted to our day, while in Japan it has only just now 
begun to break down under the pressure from Western 

It is a common error to speak of Despotic Art as if 
it were immature, as if its limitations in the matter of 
shadow and relief were due to ignorance and inex- 
perience. Imperfect it sometimes may be. In Egyptian 
art the figures might have been less stiffly uniform ; in 


Crete they sometimes verge upon caricature ; in Byzan- 
tine work they may assume too much of the rigid cha- 
racter of architecture ; with the Italians of the trecento 
too much of that Byzantine temper may survive ; in 
China forms may be contorted through the connection 
of painting with calligraphy. Yet with all their defects 
these various phases of painting serve their destined 
purpose, and serve it much better than the painting of 
more sophisticated ages has generally succeeded in 

And they succeed in virtue of the things they omit, 
almost as much as by the assistance of the things they 
express. Were details more fully realised, we should 
lose their simple grandeur, their direct rnythmical 
effectiveness ; were relief and shadows added, we 
should lose their breadth and their force of colour; 
were the figures even more closely imitative of real 
figures (as some of the Pompeian paintings show), they 
would cease to have the majesty of legendary heroes, 
the aloofness of divine or saintly personages they 
would bring us into closer contact with earth and the 
every-day world, until our awe and respect were turned 
to familiarity. 

All heroic and hieratic painting then will have some- 
thing of this grand and simple character. The con- 
tours may be as nobly drawn as human skill can draw 
them, but they must be firm and definite throughout. 
The colour may be as brilliant or as quiet as circum. 


stances demand, but it must be applied in masses that 
are flat or nearly flat. Details, forcible suggestion of 
relief, and strong shadows must be avoided. In our 
own day these limitations have been observed and 
respected only by a single painter, Puvis de Chavannes, 
but in virtue of that restraint he has taken his place 
among the great masters. 

Any full discussion of this important branch of art 
lies outside our present scope. Opportunities for its 
exercise occur with extreme rarity in these days of 
committees and compromise, although, of all forms of 
painting, it is incontestably the grandest and noblest. 
But its characteristics of firm outline and simplicity of 
treatment have been transferred with marked success 
to works executed on a smaller scale and in humbler 
materials. It is to the reminiscence of austere hieratic 
figure-painting that the great masters of Oriental land- 
scape (not excepting even the naturalistic Hiroshige), 
owe their large and restful charm : the prints and 
drawings of Blake echo, if with somewhat untrained 
and provincial rudeness, the majestic rhythm of 
Michelangelo; while, from the frescoes of the earlier 
Italians, the gem-like water-colours of Rossetti (at 
least the best of them) derive their stately planning. 
Though communion with the great masters of mural 
painting is less openly revealed in the portraits of 
Reynolds, it underlies none the less their consistent 
dignity ; indeed its influence upon other branches of 


painting has been so universally recognised as bene- 
ficial that the painters of all ages but our own have 
desired its guidance. 

That the result has been pomposity with the vain, 
absurdity with the weak, and coldness with the 
laborious, is unfortunately too true. Painters have not 
always remembered that firmness is perilously near to 
rigidity, simplicity to emptiness, and that the one is 
most needed where a subject lacks character, the other 
where there is too much wealth of material. Used in 
their proper place the characteristics of Primitive and 
Despotic Art are of inestimable value in ennobling 
smaller themes, and if an artist hesitates to employ 
them so because they have shipwrecked a hundred of 
his predecessors, he should remember that on the 
opposite side of the channel yawns the Charybdis of 
littleness which has engulfed ten thousand. 

With the breaking down of the forms of government 
under which heroic and hieratic art most naturally 
flourish, we arrive at the more democratic stage of 
civilisation in which the painter is a free citizen, at 
liberty to work much as his judgment may direct or his 
fancy may prompt, subject to personal and local 
restrictions. We come, in fact, to the stage of Indi- 
vidual Art. This, so far as painting is concerned, may 
be classed under four headings.* 

* This classification is in part due to a suggestion made to me by 
Mr. Roger Fry, who has already treated the subject with some 


(1) Dramatic Painting. The art of a crisis. 

(2) Lyrical Painting. The art of a mood. 

(3) Satiric Painting The art of ridicule. 

(4) Narrative Painting. The art of description. 

Speaking broadly, all easel pictures may be classed 
under one or more of these headings. Now and then 
it is true we may light upon things with some touch of 
the heroic and the hieratic ; more frequently, especially 
in modern times, we find a suggestion of what may be 
termed Socialist Painting. Each of these groups of 
ideas has a separate method of treatment appropriate to 
it, and may therefore well be separately discussed, 
although in practice the groups are usually fused and 
blended, so that the great majority of easel pictures are 
not exactly typical of any one group, but should be 
described as hybrids. 

In Dramatic Painting we are brought face to fact 
with the effect of some critical moment of time, when j 
tragic event has just happened or is about to happen 
when the world is illuminated with some sudden flash 
of light, or darkened by a shadow that will the next 
instant have altered or vanished. In Dramatic Painting 
the expression must be forcible as the subject is 

Yet this force must never degenerate into violence, 

elaboration in a series of lectures, which it is to be hoped may 
ooo become accessible in print. 


or instead of the dramatic we shall produce the 
theatrical. A contrast of light and shade is the most 
potent vehicle for producing a dramatic effect ; yet, 
when the contrast is forced overmuch, the result will 
be vulgar. Much of the once popular art of Gustave 
Dor fails from the obvious artifice with which masses 
of improbably bright light are opposed to masses 
of improbably black shadow. The dramatic effect of 
Spanish painting of the seventeenth century depends 
upon a more realistic use of similar oppositions. 
These forced effects are made still worse if they are 
coupled with an attempt to suggest strong relief. The 
paintings of such men as J. P. Laurens in modern 
France, or in a less aggravated degree, much of the 
work of Tintoret, and the later frescoes of Raphael (as 
in the Chamber of the Heliodorus) are open to objection 
on this score. The effect in these cases may be 
powerful, but it lacks the repose that is an essential 
condition of all supreme art. 

As mentioned elsewhere, many, if not all, great 
artists have, at an early period of their career, experi- 
mented in dramatic effects, and in the course of their 
experiments have sometimes been guilty of exaggera- 
tion. The dramatic darkness of Turner's Calais Pier 
comes perilously near to theatricality ; while the early 
work of Rembrandt is full of examples in which the 
artifice is even more conspicuous. The larger plate of 
The Raising of Lazarus and the so-called Hundred 


Guilder Plate might be quoted as cases in which force 
of contrast, skilful treatment of relief, with great powers 
of invention and draughtsmanship combine to produce 
r esults that are insincere precisely because they are so 
obviously effective. Titian's ceiling panels in the 
Salute show that his marvellous judgment was not 
invariably proof against the temptation, and even 
Velasquez in his early work is not always impeccable. 

However, when rightly understood, the dramatic 
sense is of immense importance to the painter's equip- 
ment : indeed the man who lacks it altogether will 
always be a somewhat ineffective creature, whatever 
charm or skill he may possess. On a small scale, and 
where the subject calls for exceptional vigour, the 
strongest contrasts of tone may be safely used so long 
as they are not accompanied by attempts at relief, 
that is to say, so long as the masses are comparatively 
flat. The aquatints of Goya and the lithographs of 
Daumier are admirable instances of this kind of em- 
phatic statement. In painting, the oppositions must be 
more moderate, and the condition of low relief must be 
even more rigorously observed, as the mature paintings 
of Titian, Rembrandt and Velasquez will indicate. 

Strong oppositions of colour, too, will help in pro- 
ducing a dramatic effect, even without the backing of 
oppositions of tone. In the pictures of Rubens, and in 
such works by Titian as the Entombment in the 
Louvre, the dramatic effect of contrasted tones is 


enhanced by that of contrasted colours, while some 
additional force is discreetly given by strong modelling. 
Delacroix always and Reynolds frequently use colour as 
an intensifying agent, combined with strong chiaroscuro, 
the latter element in the case of Reynolds being ad- 
mirably illustrated by the mezzotints made from his 
portraits. In Constable's sketches, as the engravings 
by Lucas prove, a dramatic scheme of chiaroscuro 
underlies a colouring which is frequently the reverse 
of dramatic. In the prints of Hokusai dramatic effect 
is more scientifically and perfectly attained by means 
of colour contrasts aided by grand and audacious design ; 
while in a portrait by Rembrandt we see the exact 
contrary. Here the colour is often hardly more than a 
pleasant monochrome, and the dramatic effect depends 
almost wholly upon light and shade. 

Dramatic painting, being essentially the art of a 
swiftly passing crisis, is often concerned with active 
motion, yet in its noblest forms it treats that crisis, 
that activity, with a certain restraint. It is in plays 
appealing to the mob that the tragic climax of the 
plot is presented on the stage with its natural accom- 
paniments of violence and blood. In the higher types 
of drama (though there are notable exceptions), the 
tendency is to avoid the actual perpetration of brutali- 
ties. The horror of the moment before the blow is struck, 
or of the moment after, is sufficient for the needs of art 
on the moment itself the curtain may rightly fall. 


Something of this reticence is commonly found in true 
dramatic painting. The great masters know that a 
crisis is most memorably suggested by the suspense of 
the moment inevitably leading to the fatal blow, or by 
the pity of the instant after the blow is given: they 
leave it to the sensationalist and the incompetent to 
strip the event of all its fascination by emphasising 
only the ugly prosy fact. A storm while advancing is 
impressive with the suggestion of terrible things to 
come; while retiring it may suggest terrible things 
that have just happened. When it is actually bursting 
upon us it conveys nothing but personal discomfort. 
The subject-matter of dramatic painting is effective or 
the reverse in precisely the same way. 

Although we cannot assign any definite date as 
marking the actual birth of any of these forms of 
artistic feeling they are implied in the beginning of 
art itself we shall not be far from the truth if we 
assume that, so far as Europe is concerned, Lyrical 
Painting, as an independent product, really came into 
being in fifteenth-century Florence with such tempera- 
ments as Piero di Cosimo, and acquired definite 
position with Giorgione and Correggio. Of these two 
masters Giorgione has been the more influential, partly 
because his was the more abrupt rupture with pre- 
ceding tradition, and partly because his immediate 
heir and successor was Titian. The lyrical element in 


Titian's art refines the work of Velasquez and Van 
Dyck, and from Van Dyck descends to Gainsborough 
In landscape it inspires Claude, softens the rigidity of 
Poussin, and descends from them to Turner and 

Watteau seems to create independently, for the 
lyrical element in his teacher Rubens is usually over- 
whelmed by other ideals. In Prudhon, however, we 
find a direct descendant of Correggio, and from 
Prudhon come Millet and Fantin. With the Dutch 
landscape painters, always excepting Rembrandt, it 
appears as a development or a consequence of an art 
which is for the most part essentially narrative, 
Matthew Maris in our own day being one of the 
rare exceptions. In the classical painting of China 
and Japan the lyrical mood is the predominant one, 
and intrudes itself frequently even when the subject is 
ostensibly anything but lyrical. 

The list of names associated with Lyrical Painting 
will convey an idea of its character. It is before all 
things contemplative. It does not attempt to stir our 
feelings by the conflict of opposing forces, or to impress 
them with ideas of divine or human grandeur, but to 
charm us into sympathy with the artist's mood as he 
ponders upon the strangeness of things their sugges- 
tiveness, their delightfulness, or their melancholy. In 
Dramatic Painting we are presented with a moment of 
swift and significant change. In Lyrical Painting the 


crisis is more remote ; time moves more slowly ; the ~ 
world has leisure for happiness, and if there be clouds 
they cannot burst until we have had our fill of contem- 
plating their menace. In excess this contemplation 
becomes sentimentality, as the dramatic turns to melo- 
drama. Yet even a slight of hint of lyrical feeling will 
redeem work which would otherwise be prosy : while 
in its perfection it is responsible for the most charming 
works of art in the world, if not for the most grand or 

To analyse in detail the immense variety and scope 
of its manifestations, or the accompanying technical 
conditions, is impossible in this place. It will be 
enough to say that where Dramatic Painting relies 
upon contrast of masses and contours, of light and 
shade and colour, Lyrical Painting relies upon harmony. 
In the one we have force and abruptness ; in the other 
subtlety and gradation. In the one the forms and the f 
colours tend to be determinate; in the other they are 
blended and combined. This difference is continually 
forgotten or ignored with disastrous results : as in the 
countless pastoral landscapes where hard green grass 
and trees, hard white sheep or cattle, hard red roofs 
and hard blue sky, clash with each other, and destroy 
all ideas of harmony and quiet. 

In the chapter dealing with the evolution of the 
artist, it is pointed out how the common practice of 
painters has been to begin with definition and contrast, 


and to end with harmony and fusion. The fact seems 
to indicate that the lyrical mood demands more skill 
and experience from the artist than does the dramatic 
indeed, the sensitiveness of touch needed for subtle 
gradation of colour, and the knowledge needed for the 
securing of perfect fusion, are among the rarest of 
artistic gifts ; far more rare than the power of conceiv- 
ing and suggesting a dramatic effect. It is for this 
reason, perhaps, that the most exquisite masters of 
technique are to be found among the lyrical painters. 
We cannot convey subtle or delicate feeling in art 
without a corresponding quality in our workmanship : 
hence the unsatisfactory results of our modern rough 
and ready technical methods, and the difficulty of attain- 
ing lyrical expression through them. 

With Satiric Painting we may deal no less briefly for 
two reasons. In the first place, it has rarely been 
supported by influential patronage, and with few excep- 
tions has not been practised by the greatest painters. 
Satire is essentially the protest of the weak against the 
strong of the subject against his masters. It is most 
effective, too, when it serves the need of a particular 
moment, and has for its object a particular person, 
class or system. When that temporary purpose is 
once accomplished, its mission is practically over : the 
satire loses the freshness of its first significance and 
becomes a historical curiosity. 


Yet in a few of its manifestations Satiric art develops 
excellences which are not always found in painting with 
a much higher ostensible name ; as in the case of Peter 
Bruegel the elder, by whom satire is enveloped with a 
mantle of impressiveness and majesty not unworthy of 
the greatest subjects. Jan Steen, too, as Reynolds has 
noted, often shows something of the same dignity. 
Satire, however, from its character and origin, rarely 
finds expression by means so elaborate as oil painting. 
Hogarth, Goya and Daumier, it is true, painted satiric 
pictures, but they all found a more effective and appro- 
priate medium for their ridicule in engraving. With 
the etching and aquatint of Goya, and the lithography 
of Daumier, we may group the more genial caricature 
of Gillray and Rowlandson, and the slighter humours 
of nineteenth-century pen and ink work. Japan too 
has a long succession of witty draughtsmen in black 
and white, of whom Hokusai is the most generally 
known outside his own country. 

All these different achievements in Satiric art are 
animated by a common spirit of lively emphasis an 
emphasis obtained usually, if not quite invariably, by 
swift exuberant line work rather than by tone or colour. 
In the fiercer mood of a Daumier or a Goya this line 
work may be strengthened by forcible contrasts of light 
and shadow. Colour, too, is used lightly and playfully 
by Rowlandson as an ornament rather than as a rein- 
forcement of his purpose. Still the essence of all 


Satiric art seems to be the spontaneous vigorous use of 
line. Every detail or enrichment, not absolutely neces- 
sary to the production of that vigour and spontaneity 
detracts something from the force of the satire, as vie 
see in the case of Hogarth's paintings, where we forget 
his moral intentions in admiration of his artistic charm. 
His engravings hit harder, because there his ridicule is 
seen in isolation, unadorned with attractive colour or 
felicitous brushwork. 

As the satirist may bring unbounded exaggeration to 
his aid, he is of all artists the one who can most justly 
give free rein to his imagination, and may indulge in a 
corresponding freedom in the matter of design. He 
alone has the right of being absurd and extravagant, 
while the very simplicity and directness necessary for 
the delivery of an effective blow preserve him from 
most of the technical perils that beset more elaborate 
aims. His one practical difficulty is that of applying 
the thickest possible coat of pictorial tar and feathers, 
and yet leaving the victim recognisable under it. As a 
general rule those who have a real sense of humour 
and the slightest power of drawing, possess with them 
instinctive pictorial taste and good sense in expressing 
their wit, which does much to make amends for their 

Under the head of Narrative Painting we may include 
all those forms of art which aim at the representation 


of natural facts or appearances without laying stress on 
any particular characteristic, or group of characteristics, 
as the other forms of painting do. The Dramatic painter, 
the Lyrical painter, and the Satirist all select from 
nature certain qualities which it is their aim to isolate 
and emphasise. The Narrative painter, on the other 
hand, aims at describing in paint the sum total of the 
things nature presents to his sight, without omitting 
or accentuating any of them more than the rest. 

Of all forms of painting it is the one of which the 
excellence can be most easily tested by comparison with 
the thing described. Probably for this reason it is the 
form of painting in which the uneducated public has 
taken most pleasure, and which it still regards as the 
crown and culmination of the painter's genius. Any 
veritable trompe rail, anything represented so clearly 
that it looks as if it could be touched or taken up, 
has for such persons the appearance of a miracle, and 
this ideal of deceptive resemblance persists even in 
quarters which we might expect to be better informed. 

During the last century there have been moments 
when both painters and critics themselves seemed to 
share this view, as in the days of Ruskin and the Pre- 
raphaelites, though an overwhelming consensus of 
educated opinion has steadily condemned it, and the 
example of all the great masters is consistently opposed 
to it. 

When viewed in historical perspective these apparent 


exceptions explain themselves. Realistic movements 
are then seen to be no more than rebellions or reactions 
from the abuse or exhaustion of more liberal theories. 
It was in this spirit that Constable protested against 
the futile imitations of Claude and Poussin which passed 
current at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and 
the Pre-raphaelites broke away from the effete and 
petty historical painters half a century later. We 
notice, too, that the finest works produced under the 
influence of this reactionary enthusiasm are those which 
most perfectly subordinate the principle of literal imita- 
tion to the larger principles of rhythm and emphasis 
which underlie all pictorial excellence. Brett's Val 
cTAosta, where everything is sacrificed to literal imita- 
tion, is a more marvellous, complete and truthful 
rendering of nature than Millais's Sir Isumbras at the 
Ford, which is from first to last a brilliant compromise 
between nature and pictorial effect. Yet Brett's picture 
now is seen to be only a most curious, accomplished and 
interesting tour de force, while Millais' Sir Isumbras, 
compromise though it be, is an immortal painting. 

Indeed the great artists of all periods, though they 
have had the highest regard for truth, have never 
regarded truth as identical with deceptive imitation : 
though this fallacious identity, as we have seen, has 
generally been accepted by the public, and has pro- 
vided it with an obvious and plausible critical formula. 
Leonardo's notes on painting show that the eyes of 


quattrocento Florence could see the effect of bright 
sunlight upon colour precisely as the Impressionists 
saw it some four hundred years later. Yet in painting, 
Leonardo used only such a fractional part of this know- 
ledge and observation as was necessary and appropriate 
for his pictures ; and when we come to the recognised 
masters of realism the same principle is observed, 
although the deliberate omissions are fewer than with 
the Florentines. 

In Northern Europe the minute handling proper to 
the Flemish method of oil painting, coupled no doub 
with a somewhat matter-of-fact habit of mind, led first 
to a precise and conscientious rendering of detail, and 
afterwards in Holland to a display of imitative dexterity, 
by which, with the lesser talents, the sense of pictorial 
design is overwhelmed. Yet no such accusation can 
be brought against the great masters of Narrative 
Painting, such as John Van Eyck among the Flemings, 
Holbein among the Germans (Durer's brooding imagi- 
nation places him for all his wealth of natural detail 
rather among lyrical artists), Chardin among the French, 
Terborch De Hoogh, Vermeer and Metsu among the 
Dutch. If their general aim from first to last is a precise 
and searching statement of natural facts, that statement 
in all their best work is still kept rigorously subordinate 
to the effect of the painting as a whole ; and, when they 
meet with some aspect of nature which would conflict 
with that effect, they alter or omit it without hesitation. 


No man, perhaps, has seen the outward aspect of the 
human face more distinctly than Holbein and delineated 
it more unflinchingly. Our best modern portraiture 
would look clumsy or weak by the side of his, at once 
so minute and so grandly comprehensive ; so alive to 
each variation of surface and contour; so resolute in 
including all those variations in one large subtle sweep 
of line or tender shadow. Yet in a good modern 
portrait we see much that we never see in a portrait by 
Holbein, namely, the thousand and one changes of tone 
and hue, caused by the reflection of the light of the 
sky or from surrounding objects. As mere imitations 
of nature these modern portraits must be regarded as 
in some ways more accurate than Holbein's, but no 
intelligent person could consider them better pictures. 

All considerable artists have recognized how rigorous 
are the limits within which exact realism can be safely 
or profitably employed. So long as imitation of nature 
is conducive to the outward visual charm of a picture 
to the enhancing of its decorative quality so long 
and no longer is it valuable and admissible. The 
moment it conflicts with that decorative quality it 
becomes a source of danger. If it emerges from the 
conflict a victor, or even upon equal terms, the work 
has ceased to be a true picture and has become an 

Even when conducted on sound lines, the province of 
Narrative Painting might seem but a small territory in 


comparison with the wide horizons that lie open before 
imaginative art. Yet in one respect at least it merits 
the attention even of imaginative artists. Their work, 
while retaining a pleasant decorative outward appear- 
ance, may become empty or conventional. To express 
their ideas they often need symbols of a somewhat 
abstract character, and those symbols may in course of 
time degenerate into mannerisms. The artist then will 
perhaps continue to secure pictorial unity, although the 
figures in his pictures have become mere artificial 
anatomies, and the landscape a mere drawing-master's 
flourish. It is then that Narrative Painting may come 
with its full-blooded, living and breathing humanity, its 
sunny, windy landscapes, to refresh and vitalize an ex- 
hausted conventional tradition. Its intrinsic capacities 
may be limited, but its indirect influence upon other 
forms of art has perhaps been even more im- 
portant than the best things which it has itself 

It sets up continually a standard of fulness of con- 
tent without which no tradition, however great its 
primal vigour, can live long. When we speak of the 
decline of any school of painting, we are wont to do so 
in terms which imply a real mental degeneration in its 
later members, and we may be right. But a degenera- 
tion is so invariably accompanied by the loss of fulness 
of content, that we may be tempted to speculate 
whether the disease itself might not be cured or 


palliated, if this characteristic symptom could be 
removed by a little common sense. 

For we cannot attribute the failure of great traditions 
wholly to mental inferiority in the painters who 
inherited them. If we think of the names once famous 
which now are found only in works of reference, or 
resound emptily in the older treatises of the arts (as do 
those of Placido Costanza, Pompeo Batoni, Imperiale 
and Sebastian Conca in the " Discourses " of Reynolds), 
we must remember that they were often men of con- 
siderable skill and talent. They inherited the pictorial 
formulae of their greater predecessors, and they were 
not intellectually incapable of using them, but the 
results they achieved are insufferably tedious to pos- 
terity, just because those formulae were never refreshed 
by the application of living nature which narrative art 
supplies. The classical art of China and Japan some- 
times tends to be empty in a similar manner and for 
similar reasons. At present our painters do not suffer 
from this particular danger. The majority have erred 
rather in the opposite direction, and Narrative Painting, 
though it is a splendid tonic, is proving an intolerable 
diet. How the artist may most safely free himself from 
its ill effects must be discussed in a future chapter. 

In this classification we have followed the painter 
from his genesis in the savage state, through his 
deriod of subjection to kings and priests, to the ages of 


individual freedom. It would be rash, or at least 
premature, to follow him further, to the stage when 
the painter becomes a member of that universal 
social fellowship with which, according to some 
authorities, we may shortly expect to be blessed. 

Then pictures painted for the People will supersede 
pictures painted either for the painter's own pleasure or 
for that of any private patron ; such pictures, indeed, 
already exist in some quantity. Yet if their existence 
entitles Socialist Painting to a place in our survey beside 
the examples of Despotic and Individual Painting which 
we possess, their present quality is not a very happy 
augury for the future of art under a collectivist regime. 
It will be enough to say that the one class of painting 
which may truly be described as painted for the People, 
chosen by the People's representatives, and paid for by 
the People, is that which forms the backbone of all 
our Colonial and Municipal Galleries, with three ex- 
ceptions, but which is perhaps most favourably repre- 
sented by the Chantrey Bequest purchases at Millbank. 

The great painter, in fact, cannot be a Socialist. He 
must be at once an individualist and a servant. An 
individualist, because it is unlikely that a tradition will 
arise in these days in which he can profitably allow his 
personal talent and character to be submerged. Only 
a tradition comparable to that of Greek Sculpture would 
justify such a sacrifice, and such traditions are born of 
needs more magnanimous and more consistent than any 


which the modern painter of easel pictures is called upon 
to supply. He must be a servant too, in that he must 
fulfil certain decorative conditions, settled neither by 
himself, nor usually by his rulers or patrons, but by the 
habits and customs of his age. Mural paintings are so 
rarely commissioned that not one painter in a thousand 
can produce anything but easel pictures, or do otherwise 
than adapt his largest ideals to their modest scale and 
to the functions easel pictures are wont to perform. 

But this very service, this process of adaptation, 
taking a new shape with each different mind and every 
fresh requirement, propounds an infinity of problems to 
engage the painter's wits, and to stimulate him to novel 
inventions, to combinations never before achieved 
Nor can this service be regarded as other than honour- 
able, as a part, indeed, of the artist's bounden duty, if 
we remember how even Michelangelo bowed to such 
compulsion in its most harsh and oppressive form, and 
was ordered away from the sculpture which he loved 
to paint the Sistine Ceiling. 


I HAVE insisted more than once on the comparative 
failure of art criticism ; the failure of art education has, 
perhaps, been even more conspicuous. In proportion 
to the money lavished by Governments and the energy 
lavished by experts upon training artists, the results 
are deplorably small. Thousands upon thousands of 
enthusiasts, not lacking ability, have been prepared for 
the painter's calling ; yet not one in fifty, on a generous 
computation, has left any memorial that was worth 
leaving. On the contrary, a large part of the art 
products which we now value are the work of men 
whose education was, to the outward eye, imperfect ; 
and who succeeded not because they followed their 
teachers, but because they defied them. 

If, when surveying the development of artists 
during the last five hundred years, we could discover 
no common tendency, no regular process of growth, we 
might indeed despair we might assume that the talent 
of the painter is something apart from all ordinary 
intellectual laws; that it can neither be fostered by 



methodical encouragement, nor be crushed by un- 
sympathetic surroundings ; and that in consequence 
the gigantic wastage and extravagance which have 
accompanied all systems of art-teaching are inevitable. 
But in one respect at least this is not the case. 

That there is a certain sequence in the stages of the 
artist's evolution has long been a matter of common 
knowledge, though, so far as I am aware, it has not 
been very carefully analysed. Nearly all great artists 
have begun by working with some precision. This 
precision gradually towards middle life is modified by 
a desire for greater breadth of mass ; this desire, in its 
turn, is exchanged on the approach of old age for a 
love of freedom of brush work, and a disregard for all 
minor details. So universal is this development that, 
in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, it enables a 
painting by a great artist to be referred at once to the 
period of his work in which it was produced, without 
the need of adducing external evidence. 

In basing our current ideas of art training upon this 
generally recognized course of individual development, 
we do rightly ; for we have no other ground at all 
upon which a working system could be logically 
founded. Yet the results for the last three hundred 
years have been so poor that we may well ask whether 
there is not a misunderstanding somewhere at the 
root of things which has vitiated our whole educational 


Our eyes are so powerfully attracted by the supreme 
masters of the Renaissance, that we naturally think 
that the system which produced a Michelangelo, a 
Titian, and a Raphael, must also be the one best 
adapted to our students of to-day. But are we quite 
able to reconcile the universal application of this 
system with the growth of a Rembrandt, a Goya, a 
Daumier, or a Rossetti ? Are we not bound to recognize 
that, if there be one great group of artists who must be 
regarded as the direct heirs or exponents of a classical 
tradition, there is also another, including at least an 
equal number of famous names, of artists who in com- 
parison are romantics, reactionaries or rebels. More- 
over, during the last hundred years this second group 
has been infinitely more powerful and important than 
the first. All our systems of teaching the arts have 
been derived from the practice of the former group ; no 
one seems to have attempted to elucidate the general 
principles underlying the activities of the latter. 

The essential difference between the two groups 
lies in their contrasted attitudes towards tradition. 
Raphael and Titian were born into a world where a 
definite technical practice of using tempera, oil and 
fresco had been gradually built up, though no painter 
had as yet succeeded in solving by its help certain 
difficult problems of representation. Thus quite apart 
from any imaginative aims, these great masters of the 
full Renaissance had to gird themselves to the task of 


carrying to completion that mastery of natural appear- 
ances which their predecessors had failed to attain. That 
mastery once secured, all the pictorial resources of their 
time and country lay at their feet, to be transmuted 
into perfect art, once and for ever. 

So we find Raphael in boyhood acquiring all the 
skill of his master Perugino. Then, at Florence, he 
applies himself to study the construction, motion and 
mass of the human body, till in the Borghese Entomb- 
ment he appears to his contemporaries to have excelled 
the Florentines in their own special province. Even 
when summoned to Rome, the first of his frescoes, the 
Disputd, is still Umbro-Florentine. Increased know- 
ledge of classical antiquity gives weight to The School 
of Athens; in the Parnassus it is made serene and 
joyous decoration ; to the Mass of Bolsena Venetian 
influence brings new contact with humanity and a new 
glow of colour. Then, just when the painter seemed 
to have learned all that was necessary to the perfection 
of his genius, the goddess of Discord threw down her 
fatal fruit. 

Forced by Roman party spirit into competition with 
Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling in the chapel hard by, 
and harried incessantly by the importunate admiration 
of his friends at the Papal Court, Raphael was 
deprived at once ol the singleness of aim with which 
he had hitherto pursued his art, of the leisure required 
to think out the drastic changes in his ideas which 


rivalry with Michelangelo seemed to demand, and even 
of the time to paint his pictures with his own hand. 
No wonder then that the Heliodorus and its successors, 
designed without due reflection, and executed by heavy 
handed assistants from mere sketches, degrade the 
fame of Raphael. Had he lived the common span of 
human life had fate ever allowed him a breathing 
space in which to contemplate the course of his own 
art his equable reasonable genius was great enough 
to have turned upon itself, and to have recognized that 
this newly discovered chiaroscuro, which had been 
invoked to give additional force and movement, was a 
poison as well as a stimulant. So Raphael might have 
discovered at last, as Titian did in extreme old age, 
that chiaroscuro was a valuable servant only when 
ruled by a despot. Fate decided otherwise and, with 
the Parnassus and the Mass of Bolsena, Raphael's 
career as a painter ends. 

Titian in the same way first masters the glowing 
science of the Bellinesque practice, and then immensely 
enlarges both his mental and technical experience by 
contact with Giorgione. Much of the older Venetian 
sense of vivid colour pattern survives even in works 
like the Bacchus and Ariadne, where his powers are 
seen at perhaps their most delightful moment. Then, 
like Raphael, he is attracted towards chiaroscuro, as a 
means of getting still further force and solidity of 
modelling, and for many years suffers from similar 


difficulties ; acquiring only in extreme old age the 
secret of that subtle fusion of broken tones, of which 
the great Pieta in the Venice Academy is the most 
famous and familiar example. 

We might summarise the lessons drawn from the his- 
tory of these two great masters somewhat as follows : 

(1) They begin by almost slavish assimilation of the 
precise yet imperfect style of their masters. 

(2) Round this nucleus they gradually accumulate 
other experiences, Raphael advancing by far the 
more rapidly, till, with the view of mastering the final 
problems of complete representation, they attempt to 
combine strong chiaroscuro with colour. While still 
struggling with this difficulty Raphael dies. 

(3) Titian continues the struggle, and in extreme 
old age finds that the solution lies not in forcible con- 
trasts of dark and light, or of vivid colours, but in the 
subtle fusion of broken and indefinite tones. 

If we compare this progress with the development of 
Turner, we shall find exactly the same order of advance. 
First, we have the imitations of Cozens and Girtin, of 
Claude and Poussin and Backhuysen; with such 
experiments in chiaroscuro as the Calais Pier and 
Liber Studiorum. The difficulties of combining this 
chiaroscuro with colour are seen in the plates of the 
" Harbours of England," as their conquest is seen in 
the " Rivers of France," which prepare the way for the 
supreme subtlety and fusion of Turner's old age. 


These masters, it must be noted, were all born into 
the world at a time when the particular tradition from 
which they started was imperfect. The Florentine 
tradition was just short of full ripeness when Raphael 
came to Florence ; the Bellinesque tradition was still 
splendidly young when Titian was born in Venice ; 
landscape was still to all intents and purposes a toy or 
an appanage of figure painting when Turner and Con- 
stable arose to reveal its independent power. When 
with the full Renaissance the power of complete 
representation of the human form had been acquired, a 
new Raphael or a new Titian was impossible. When 
Turner and Constable had done with landscape they 
left little or nothing for their successors to do on the 
same lines. Each field of artistic activity, in fact, is 
exhausted by the first great artist who gathers a full 
harvest from it. 

The task of those born after great periods 01 
discovery and achievement is thus entirely different, 
and perhaps more difficult, than that of men born in 
earlier ages, when the whole world lay open to the 
ambitious mind. A few immensely gifted celebrities 
like Van Dyck and Reynolds have been saved, in spite 
of themselves, by the necessity which drove them to 
restrict their talents to the ever-fresh, if narrow, pro- 
vince of portraiture ; but with more imaginative intellects 
this restriction was not possible. 

Of these intellects, Rembrandt is the first and tbe 


greatest. He comes into the world to find the science 
of representative painting, in the form understood by 
the men of his time, already so complete that except 
in details no further advance seemed practicable. 
The science of religious and historical painting was 
equally complete to the outward eye ; but there 
the native feeling of the Dutch race for honest por- 
trayal of real persons and things had been over- 
whelmed by Italian influence, and the current generali- 
sations of design and contour possessed neither the 
spirit of a living art, nor the elegance which in 
Southern Europe disguised this age of emptiness 
and decay. 

Unable to develop with profit either the realist or the 
imaginative tradition of his time, Rembrandt had no 
option but to revolt from them. So soon as his por- 
traits become complete examples of all-round realism 
(and that costs him no small effort), he must move a 
step further ; and he does so by emphasizing a particular 
characteristic of his sitters the inevitable isolation 
of the human soul. To suggest this detachment from 
all the things and thoughts of this earth, he sacrifices 
the pleasant light of the sun, he sacrifices colour and 
all the common apparatus of pictorial charm, with the 
result that he secures a mastery of certain aspects of 
human personality which remains supreme and unique. 
Like all forms of emphatic statement it was misunder- 
stood and despised by his contemporaries ; his practice 


as a portrait painter in consequence languished, and 
he died a forgotten pauper.* 

Rembrandt's attitude towards the imaginative art of 
his time was no less decided. That art was lifeless ; 
he determined that his own work should at all costs be 
full of life. Instead of the graceful Raphaelesque ideals 
of the time, he introduced real persons, the members of 
his own family and household, and the beggars from 
the street. The difficulty of obtaining any models at 
all in Holland probably contributed to his determina- 
tion to draw largely upon his memory, and the gradual 
training of that marvellous memory is not the least pro- 
fitable lesson to be learnt from his etched work.f The 
result of this defiance of generalised beauty, this trust 
in life and nature, is that Rembrandt's subject-pieces are 
as solitary and supreme in their sympathy with human 
character as are his portraits. 

In the matter of design, Rembrandt's revolt was no 
less emphatic. To escape from the suave but insipid 
patterns of the Italianizers, he went to the opposite 
extreme of abruptness and contrast ; hence the melo- 
dramatic oppositions of light and darkness which are 
characteristic of his early style. With growing ex- 
perience this obvious and forcible rhythmic contrast 

* For a fuller account of Rembrandt's attitude towards 
portraiture, see the Burlington Magazine, Jan. 1908, vol. xii. pp. 

f See the Burlington Magazine, May, July, August, and October 
1906, vol. ix. pp. 87, 245, 313 38 


gives place (as with Titian and Turner), to the subtle 
fusion which distinguishes all his later products. 

Now, when we survey the career of other great 
reactionaries Tiepolo, Goya, Daumier, Delacroix, 
Blake, Rossetti, Millet, Puvis de Chavannes men 
working like Rembrandt, in the midst of tired conven- 
tionalism or tired realism, we find in all of them this 
same adoption of a more vigorous and simple rhythm, 
a more definite emphasis of certain parts of nature, 
instead of any attempt at an all-round compro- 
mise. Did space allow, it would be easy to prove 
the case in detail; but those who have followed 
me thus far will recognise its truth without further 

In effect, then, the development of the individual 
artist would seem to take a course corresponding to that 
of the human race. 

(i) It must have, first of all, its primitive stage. 
Where art is already in an immature state, this stage is 
that in which the artist finds himself at birth and from 
which he develops naturally, as the great artists of the 
early Renaissance developed. 

Where art is already ripe, where the science of 
representation is perfectly understood, a return must be 
made to the primitive state, or the painter's after- 
growth will be warped. To continue the tradition of a 
mature period is like being born middle-aged. Primi- 
tive art, as we have seen, is characterised by a strong 


sense of vitality, and still more by emphatic rhythm of 

(2) This primitive vigour may afterwards find vent in 
Dramatic Painting (as boys write heavy tragedies), and 
may be constantly varied by experiments towards in- 
creasing the realistic element, experiments similar to 
those made by Raphael, Titian and Rembrandt when 
they attempted to combine strong modelling with strong 
local colour. 

(3) Finally, towards the end of an artist's career, 
these experiments terminate in a desire for fusion 
for the creation of a pictorial atmosphere in which 
all the various elements of the design are harmoniously 
enveloped. Art, in fact, ceases to be dramatic, and 
becomes lyrical. Often, however, by the time this 
stage is reached, failing health involves some loss ot 
power. Only in rare cases is a painter's late work so 
uniformly valuable as that of his early and middle life. 
So an old civilisation learns the art of refined living, 
but loses at the same time its creative and military 

Such practical conclusions as may be deduced from 
this study of the career of our predecessors do not 
amount to much more than is already recognised by all 
intelligent art teachers, except in one or two respects, 
and may be summed up as follows : 

The common practice of teaching an artist to draw 
and paint precisely and accurately at the outset of his 


career is absolutely correct. All great artists have 
started by mastering the science of representation. No 
ane at all has, I believe, succeeded by beginning where 
the great masters leave off, that is to say, by aiming at 
fusion before learning definition. 

Where the practice of the past differs from that of 
the present is in the use of models. The custom of 
to-day is to teach the painter to rely upon models 
entirely, both for the figure and for landscape. The 
old masters, on the other hand, consistently practised 
working from memory side by side with working from 
the model. They were thus able not only to keep 
their wits alert to counteract the mechanical habit of 
mind which grows upon those who work solely from 
models, but also were able to give solidity to the things 
which they imagined. 

Next as to tradition. The artist must never be content 
with the current tradition of his time. To do so is to remain 
stationary ; and the artist must go forward at any cost 
If he is bred in an incomplete tradition, he will 
naturally attempt to carry it forward one stage nearer 
to completion. If the tradition of his time be already 
complete it has no further use for him. He must go 
back to the primitive elements of his art, rhythm and 
vitality, and use them as a base for an advance upon 
new and personal lines. The training of this new 
vigour, and the control of this new vitality will be his 
first business when his pupilage is over ; and, as years 


and experience increase, he will enrich his paintings 
with the fruits of his knowledge till they become 
complete and original works of art. 

All great artists, however precocious their beginning, 
have been a long time in attaining to the summary 
breadth, fusion and emphasis of their final manner. 
This has seldom been adopted much before the artist's 
fiftieth year, even when the effort to evolve it has been 
incessant. Indeed the middle period of a painter's 
career would really seem to be the crucial one, and not, 
as is commonly supposed, the early period. There are 
plenty of instances of young painters whose school 
record was one of incompetence, but who in after years 
became great artists the case of Constable is a strik- 
ing example while how many hundred painters who 
were once the pride of an art school, and seemed to 
have fame and fortune safely grasped, have disappeared 
from memory before they were forty ! 

The artist must remain a student all the time he is 
attempting to be a master. Breadth and freedom are 
not only passwords to praise from many critics, but to 
the unthinking they seem easier than laborious exact- 
ness, and the path from ease to indolence is short. The 
broad treatment which at first retained something of 
the sound knowledge amassed as a student, soon be- 
comes a trick of hand, with nothing behind it. The 
mind is saved the trouble of thinking and at last loses 
the power of doing so from sheer want of exercise. For 


a time this leisurely shallowness may escape notice, 
and may even achieve some little success, but a day 
will come when comparison has to be made with more 
serious and thoughtful work, and the deception is 
found out. 

And the case is hopeless. No instance I believe is 
known of a painter regaining the powers of his youth 
after he has once succumbed to the temptations of indo- 
lence or popularity. In other walks of life it is not 
uncommon to hear of men pulling themselves together 
in middle age, and regaining intellectual powers which 
had seemingly lapsed for want of exercise. But the 
peculiar blend of mental activity and manual skill which 
the art of painting demands is not so long-suffering. 
Not only does it never forgive the man who has once 
for any reason neglected it, but even those who try 
hardest to retain and develop their powers do not 
always succeed. 

The best remedy for this prevalent perilous disease 
of middle age would seem to be endless exercise of the 
brain endless experiment. That at least has been the 
practice of the great masters, whose work in middle life 
is a record of incessant change, incessant trial of new 
subjects and new methods, incessant alternation between 
working from the model and working from memory, 
until the period of experiment is succeeded by that of 
experience of perfect knowledge. 

How different is our contemporary art. There almost 


every painter, so soon as his manner is known at all, is 
associated in the public mind with a particular class of 
subject and a particular treatment, from which any 
radical departure is received almost as a sacrilege. We 
have perhaps learned to regard youth as the period of 
exact scholarship, but, until we also regard middle age 
as the period of untiring experiment, we must not 
expect an artist after he is fifty to be anything but an 
object for pity and silence. 

How far an artist is benefited by the society of his 
fellows or that of the world at large is a question 
answered by no universal precedent. If Michelangelo, 
Rembrandt, and Turner illustrate the coincidence of 
insight with isolation, the happier lives of Titian, and 
Rubens, and Reynolds might be quoted with equal 
iustice to prove that high excellence is not incompatible 
with a wide acquaintance. All the same, the personal 
popularity of Raphael and Van Dyck injured their 
painting as it shortened their lives. 

As a rule a man's personality, or his style of work, 
do more to decide his habits of life than any deliberate 
choice. An ungainly presence and uncouth manners 
will isolate their possessor ; the profession of a por- 
trait painter will forbid entire seclusion. The evidence 
of the past on the whole points to some measure of 
seclusion as necessary for those who wish to do great 
things, although if that seclusion become solitude both 
the painter and his work may suffer. Yet for one 


painter who has narrowed his art from lack of converse 
with his fellows, a hundred have ruined their work 
by going to the opposite extreme and taking social 
patronage too seriously. 

The painter would do well in boyhood to frequent 
the company of his fellow students; from it he will 
derive some standard of skill, and perhaps some stimulus 
in discussion. In his later years he may mix with the 
world as much as he inclines ; and he can then do so 
without the least danger, for his character will be formed 
and fixed. Only in early manhood and middle life will 
he imperatively need some times of solitude in which 
to think out the problems of his profession ; and it is 
just then that the pleasures of the world are wont to be 
most importunate and most acceptable. 


ARTISTS themselves, and their critics too, are wont to 
act and speak as if the style and ideals of their own 
time were the last word in art to regard themselves 
as enshrining a perfect tradition, from which any 
marked departure must be rank heresy. Few have 
been able to receive with enthusiasm the appearance 
of a style essentially different from their own. The 
whole record of painting during the last hundred years, 
has been a record of revolt and persecution revolt by 
youthful talent against the degeneracy of some old 
tradition, answered by hostility and repression on 
the part of the seniors. 

When the progress of the arts during the past 
century has been thus irregular, it would be unreason 
able to expect it to be otherwise in the immediate 
future. Change seems to be a condition of all great 
achievement in the arts, for, as we have seen, it is 
usually by the pioneers of change that the greatest 
pictures are painted No follower of Constable has 
attained anything like the same position : Delacroix, 



Rousseau, Corot, Millet, have had no successors of 
equal force ; the work done by Millais, Rossetti and 
their associates in their years of unpopularity has 
never been equalled ; the best Impressionist pictures 
were painted long ago when their painter's names 
were a byword. A revolt then against an established 
style, instead of being received with the derision 
which is generally its fate, should be welcomed as the 
one possible source from which the arts may derive 
new vitality. 

Not that mere novelty must of necessity be admirable 
The reproach of slightness brought against the work 
of the Impressionists was in a measure just. Con- 
stable's critics were not wholly wrong when they 
blamed the unpleasant substance and surface of some 
of his paintings ; nor were those who found Pre- 
raphaelite colouring garish without some ground for 
their dislike. Yet these peculiarities were sacrifices 
necessary to the excellences of the works in question. It 
is only when the result does not justify the sacrifice, that 
we have any right to find serious fault. New excellence, 
new character, new emphasis, can rarely be attained with- 
out renouncing some quality which a previous generation 
has prized. The value of a new movement must be judged 
in relation to the importance of the message it brings, 
quite apart from the sacrifices which the artist has had 
to make in order to deliver his message at all. 

But paintiag * subject to changes of another kind 


over which artists have no control. These changes 
may be described as changes of patronage and of 
function. Of patronage in so far as the artist is usually 
dependent upon selling his pictures to some one else : 
of function in that pictures serve a decorative purpose, 
and have a definite relation to architecture. In one 
age the artist will be employed in covering the walls of 
palaces, in another he will be compelled to devote his 
talent to producing small easel pictures for private 

So far as function is concerned we can speculate 
with some certainty as to the immediate future. 
Whatever political and social commotions may be in 
store for us, we may assume that the present diffusion 
of wealth, while it may shift its locality, will not be 
materially altered in character. The majority of 
picture buyers will continue to live in houses much 
like those of to-day, while the convenience of being 
able to move the ordinary framed easel picture from 
one house to another will probably cause this form of 
art to retain its present vogue. 

Of recent years great improvements have been 
effected in the setting of prints and drawings, so that 
even slight sketches and studies can be transformed 
by tactful mounting and framing into real decorative 
units. It would seem to follow that these slighter 
forms of art would be viewed with ever-increasing 
favour. Their moderate prices will be an inducement 


to many who can never afford to collect important 
pictures, while the light and cheerful effect of framed 
drawings will often suit our sunny modern interiors 
better than the heavier tones of oil painting. 

In the framing of oil pictures we have so far been 
much less successful. Many pictures seem to look best 
in frames which are themselves neither beautiful nor 
harmonious with other furniture. The pictures of the 
Barbizon school for instance, are almost invariably 
set in frames which have an undeniably vulgar look. 
Yet in such a rectangle of gilded contortion, a Corot or 
a Daubigny shows to perfection : place it in a frame 
of more reticent design, and it becomes in a moment 
flat, empty and tame. This matter of framing must in 
the future receive far more serious attention than has 
been paid to it hitherto, for in no quarter is attention 
more needed, or more immediately bound up with 
practical success. 

As to the future of patronage it is less easy to speak, 
the support of the Fine Arts being intimately depen- 
dent upon political and social conditions which 
cannot be forecast with certainty. We may be 
tolerably sure that future wars, however exhausting 
internecine and disastrous to individual states, will 
not result in such an overthrow of the organisation, 
comfort and intellectual activity of civilised life, as took 
place when the Roman Empire of the West fell upon 


evil days. The arts have ceased to be the property of " 
any single state ; and the printing press has diffused 
the great mass of human knowledge so widely that no 
political or social upheaval can quite overwhelm it. 

The number of people who profess a general liking 
for the fine arts has certainly increased with the spread 
of printed matter. Many more thousands may visit 
the Royal Academy than was the case half a century 
ago, just as many more thousands read and write, but 
it may be doubted whether the pictures which those 
thousands really admire can reach any higher standard 
than the magazines and halfpenny papers which form 
their literary diet. We must presume the continuity 
of education ; we must presume also the continuity, if 
not the steady increase, of this large class of untrained 
admirers, and with it the continuity of means for 
gratifying their admiration. 

In comparison with this vast assemblage of uncriti- . 
cal spectators, the number of those who possess sound 
taste, and the means of gratifying it by the purchase 
of works of art, will probably remain small. In 
England, at the present moment, it appears to be even 
smaller than the general wealth of the country would 
warrant, and the few who would like to collect pictures 
for their own sake are compelled to regard their 
purchases more or less in the light of an investment. 

The most casual study of sale-room records brings 
the collector face to face with the striking fact that 


pictures by well-known Royal Academicians no longer 
fetch at Christie's a twentieth part of their original 
cost. Overlooking the fact that works of this par- 
ticular class and this particular period were, at the 
time of their production, artificially inflated both in 
reputation and price, and that the opinion of all serious 
critics has been uniformly adverse to them, the collector 
argues from this collapse that no modern painting can 
be bought except with the probability of heavy loss, 
if circumstances ever compel its appearance in the 

On the other hand he sees the finest works, whether 
old or modern, fetching higher and higher prices, which 
place them as much out of his reach on the ground of 
first cost, as the sale room records seem to place modern 
pictures out of it on the ground of ultimate deprecia- 
tion. Our newly-developed outdoor pastimes too, are 
often expensive and successful rivals to intellectual 
pursuits, with which true picture-collecting must be 

In direct opposition to these forces retarding the 
purchase of all modern pictures (except portraits 
which have the impregnable support of human vanity), 
is the steady absorption of fine works of art, either 
into great public collections, or into private collections 
from which they are never likely to emerge. The 
available masterpieces are not inexhaustible, and the 
competition displayed during the past few years over 


the comparatively few good pictures which have been 
sold, indicates that the time is not far distant when 
the only works by deceased masters which even a rich 
collector can obtain will be works of the second rank. 

For a time these inferior works will, no doubt, be 
forced upon the market, but publicity will make com- 
parisons inevitable, and it will become evident that the 
best modern work is undeniably better than the second 
best work of the past. Good work by living men will 
then have to be collected because there is nothing else 
to collect. In the narrow field of etching this process 
has already begun, and plates by the best modern 
masters are in steady demand, and fetch good prices, 
because print collectors have discovered that the old 
masters are now quite beyond the reach of modest 

This forecast applies only to the very best work, 
and immediately only to such phases of it as have 
some note of continuity with accepted traditions. 
Whatever their intrinsic merit, the most original 
pictures, from their very originality, may still have to 
wait some time for recognition ; as will those which, 
from their size or subject-matter, do not suit modern 
rooms or are remote from contemporary taste. Yet 
the lack of quite first rate pictures is already becoming 
so marked that, in a few years time, it may even 
overwhelm these minor obstacles, and make real talent 
practically sure of a modest competence. 


More than that it would be unwise to hope for. 
Great prices are paid by great collectors only for 
works which have stood the test of time, and are 
stamped with the hall-mark of generally recognised 
excellence. Work which has not stood this test lies 
outside the great collectors' province, and does not 
enter that expensive domain until it has passed with 
credit through one or two minor collections. The price 
the artist himself receives will still be but a small 
fraction of that which will ultimately be paid for his 
picture, and he may thus remain comparatively poor, 
at the very time when his early pictures fetch thou- 
sands of pounds. 

While circumstances thus seem to be, on the whole, 
not unfavourable for the really good artist, the pros- 
pects of the painter who fails to attain unique promi- 
nence in some branch of his craft, are perhaps worse 
than they have ever been. Unless he cultivates the 
arts of the society portrait painter, or takes to illustra- 
tion, he has little chance of making a living by his 
brush. While dealers and collectors like to have the 
very finest things, they have no interest whatever in 
pictures which do not reach their exacting standard, sc 
that for all pictures, except the very best of their 
respective classes, there is no market at all. The 
spread of education may have slightly increased the 
number of casual purchasers and of small collectors, 
but this increase is far more than counterbalanced 



by the gigantic growth in the number of professional 

The elements of the art of representing things in 
paint, can be more or less soundly learned in thousands 
of art schools. The mastery of these elements is not 
beyond the power of young gentlemen and young 
ladies of average intelligence : their possession, in an 
age devoted to naturalism, is enough to constitute a 
painter. The result is the immense multiplication of 
works which are skilful and conscientious up to a 
certain point, but are fundamentally commonplace, and 
cannot provide their makers with a living. 

In the course of time governments may recognise that 
it is useless extravagance to train all who desire it for a 
profession in which not one in a hundred can be 
expected to do any practical good either to his country 
or to himself. If teaching were generally restricted to 
drawing alone, and further training permitted only to 
those, whatever their age, who could produce some 
certificate of exceptional inventive or executive power, 
a large amount of energy now lost to the world might 
be diverted into more useful if more prosaic channels. 

Already the more talented artists all the world over 
have recognised the danger, and are making spasmodic 
efforts to cope with it, realising that they serve their 
reputations ill by allowing their works to be buried in 
large shows where the majority of the pictures are bad. 
We may thus expect in the future a sharp division. 


There will be comparatively small exhibitions of good 
pictures, with a small clientele of collectors and persons 
of exceptional taste ; and there will be large exhibi- 
tions of inferior work, dependent upon the shillings of 
the uneducated public, where sales, except to municipal 
galleries and proprietors of popular journals, will be 
almost unknown. 

It is no vain or unprofitable labour to discuss the 
material welfare and the aesthetic capacity of the artist's 
patrons. The one decides the limits of scale within 
which the painter has to express himself, and to some 
extent even the mediums he must use ; the other at 
least influences him in matters of treatment, especially 
where departures from established custom are con- 
cerned. On the first point we have already seen that 
easel pictures of moderate size will have to be the 
medium of the artist's largest thoughts, except on rare 
occasions ; while drawing, etching, and the various 
forms of engraving will tend to increase in popularity. 
On the aesthetic capacity of future patronage depend 
more important and vital issues. 

In a certain sense the artist is the teacher of his 
patrons. It is the artist who invents the new vision, 
the new executive formula and, until he has embodied 
his inventions in a picture, even the most intelligent of 
his contemporaries cannot begin to appreciate the value 
of the new qualities which he is introducing. Taste in 


che arts will never be quite an abstract intellectual 
faculty ; it must always be founded upon and influenced 
by previously existing works of art. The painter whc 
produces good pictures not only adds his canvases to 
the world's wealth, but in course of time adds to the 
world's culture the new knowledge and perception of 
which they are the embodiment. 

As a rule, however, the acceptance of the new 
qualities which a good painter introduces is a slow 
process, even with the intelligent. Few really great 
and original artists during the last hundred years have 
been understood by, or have educated, even a small 
section of the public till they were past middle life. 
In youth they have almost invariably been subjected 
either to total neglect or to the charge of ugliness, the 
one word by which the uneducated can safely describe 
any departure from the pictorial symbols to which they 
are accustomed. But youth is a time when the mind is 
most plastic, and it is inevitable that all but the strongest 
must be influenced in early life by the views of the 
persons about them. Even if these persons be intelli- 
gent, a certain inertia has to be overcome before they 
can be brought to recognise an original departure 
in the arts, and the history of painting is full of 
memories of those who were not strong enough to 
conquer this opposition men born out of due time, 
timid unsuccessful pioneers of movements that in a 
future generation, in the hands of more persistent 


and powerful champions, were to attain unquestioned 

This inertia, this tardy acceptance of any departure 
from the current formulae of painting, with the waste of 
talent which it involves, can never be wholly removed ; 
but its powers of resistance might be much diminished, 
if its nature were more closely studied. 

The great innovations which from time to time have 
refreshed the general tradition of the arts have all one 
common characteristic. Each has consisted, as we 
have seen, in the addition of new elements of vitality 
and rhythm to an art grown old and languid, and with 
these new elements there necessarily followed a new 
pictorial symbolism. 

This vitality is, in a sense, cumulative, for each inno- 
vator's structure is made so much higher by starting 
from the ruins of his predecessor. Claude's landscape 
is more vital than that of Perugino, Turner than Claude; 
while the Pre-raphaelites and the Impressionists in 
their respective ways go farther than Turner. All the 
great movements in art, even when they appear most 
reactionary, even when their nostalgia their passion 
for old forms of life or thought is strongest, endow 
these past things with a vitality which they have never 
had before, so that their antique garb is but a cloak for 
the spirit and freshness of youth. 

A new difficulty confronts us when we apply this 
principle to our speculation upon the course which 


pictorial invention will take in the future. We live in 
an age of unrestrained universal naturalism, when the 
representation of the phenomena of light and colour, as 
revealed in all visible things, has been made the subject 
of incessant study, and has perhaps been carried to as 
great a degree of completeness, in most directions, as 
is ever likely to be attained. How is it possible to 
add further vitality to an art of which Constable and 
Claude Monet were no more than the founders ? Must 
not every step in the future be a step backwards from 
the more or less complete representation of nature at 
which we have arrived ? 

Were this so the prospects of the painter would 
indeed be melancholy, for he would have no more 
worlds to conquer. But, as indicated in the previous 
chapter, the expression of vitality is not confined to an 
all-round statement of things in themselves alive, but 
may be conveyed also, and often more effectively, by 
an emphatic statement of a few significant features. 
For example, many painters of peasant life have painted 
French fields, French skies, and French peasants with 
singular faithfulness and skill : yet not one of them has 
got so near to the heart of the toiling peasant as Millet 
did, by concentrating his attention upon just the signi- 
ficant facts and suppressing the rest. Whistler's superi- 
ority to other painters of London depends upon just the 
same concentrated emphasis of a few things, instead of an 
emphasis diluted by insistence on everything at once. 


It is quite possible that the acceptance of this prin- 
ciple of concentrated emphasis and resolute sacrifice 
may be accelerated by the introduction of some new 
medium. There is no reason why the practice of the 
future should be restricted to the commonly received 
processes of representation in oil, tempera and water 
colour. Efforts have already been made to revive 
enamelling ; can we not imagine that a similar effort 
might succeed in reviving some such medium as 
lacquer limited perhaps in range of hue and in 
manipulative ease, but compensating for these limita- 
tions by the perfection of its decorative quality ? 

Such a new medium might almost at once bring 
about a widening of our aesthetic perceptions, though 
the widening, unless it were based upon a foundation 
of logic, might be no more permanent than it has 
proved to be in Japan. Some great artist in stained 
glass or mosaic might effect a similar revolution of 

In practice this process of unhesitating selection and 
omission is open to one very real peril. It may be 
carried so far that the residue left for pictorial expres- 
sion is unduly small, and the picture, though decora- 
tively perfect, will seem slight or empty when put by 
the side of other paintings possessing more significant 
subject-matter more fulness of content. The later 
works of Whistler are open to criticism on this ground. 
All are exquisite and charming works of art which 


convey their message perfectly, but the message itself 
is often next to nothing. 

The classical painting of China and Japan errs in the 
same way, at least to Western eyes. Here we in- 
variably find decorative effect, calligraphic dexterity, 
and often a large lyrical feeling, but to most of us its 
subject-matter will appear inadequate. Only when we 
come to the realistic masters, and especially to the 
Japanese colour-printers, do we begin to find enough 
subject-matter to justify a picture. We must, however, 
remember that the subject of a Chinese painting, which 
appears in our eyes so insignificant, is by no means 
insignificant in the eyes of the race for whom it was 
painted. Steeped in classical literature and poetry, 
the educated Oriental thinks, talks, and sees in terms 
of literary allusion. The rocks and water and clouds, 
the plants, the animals, and the personages which make 
the common subject-matter of Chinese art, have for a 
native audience a profound and complicated secondary 
significance which we cannot hope to understand. 
Their painters, in fact, have learned to paint for a race 
whose perceptions are so cultivated, that the merest 
mggestion of a natural object is enough to evoke in 
the mind a long train of pleasant associations. 

In Europe it will be long before the artist can 
expect so much from his public. On the contrary the 
educated public at first, and the general public for 
many years will continue to treat the great artist as 


their predecessors treated his in the past. To them 
his emphasis of some particular vital quality in nature 
will appear as ugliness, and will be abused under that 
name ; while the sacrifices he has made to obtain that 
emphasis will be condemned as incompleteness. In- 
deed so universally have terms " ugly " and " incom- 
plete " been used in Europe to decry every phase of 
original art on its first appearance (now and then, as 
with the Pre-raphaelites, ''incompleteness" has been 
replaced by " indecency "), that I believe it would be 
no bad rule for the collector who wishes to discover 
rising talent, to confine his study to those works by 
young men which were consistently damned by the 
critics of the baser sort as incomplete and ugly. It 
their technical merits were allowed he would be on 
still safer ground; while if their subject-matter also 
proved on examination to have some considerable 
charm or interest, he might feel secure that he was 
following real talent, and no mere will-o'-the-wisp. 

The rock on which generation after generation of 
inconsiderate critics, and in particular all academies 
of the Fine Arts, have come to grief, is their habit of 
judging new works of art by some fixed standard of 
grace, or power, or proportion, established and deter- 
mined by pictures already in existence. New pictures 
which correspond in some considerable degree to such 
a standard are therefore at once acclaimed as master- 
pieces; those that differ radically from this accepted 


standard are called ugly. In reality this correspon- 
dence with some existing standard of grace, or power, 
or proportion, is not a merit but a fatal defect. It 
implies imitation, and no great artist ever was an 
imitator after his student days. The great artist 
invariably departs in some degree from the canons 
and standards of his own age, and by that departure 
creates a new quality which is at first suspected for 
eccentricity, or attacked as ugliness ; but which in time 
is understood, becomes in its turn a standard and is 
everywhere recognised as beauty. 


To avoid the risk of misapprehension, it may be well to 
recapitulate briefly the conclusions suggested by these 
notes on some points where the popular notions of 
painting seem to be unsettled. 

For example, there is a constant hesitation in the 
popular mind as to whether the subject-matter of a 
picture, its inward significance, is more important than 
its technical expression, its outward decorative aspect. 
There can be no real doubt as to the truth. As music 
conveys its meaning to us through the ear, so a picture 
must convey its meaning to us through the eye. It is 
through the visible attractiveness of its pattern of inter- 
woven lines, and tones, and colours that we must be 
introduced to the significance of the images which that 
pattern includes. Decoration therefore has always 
a definite precedence over Significance in all good 
pictures. The moment the position is reversed ; when 
a canvas appeals to the mind rather than to the eye ; 
when we think of the story which it tells before our 
eyes have been gladdened by the attractiveness of its 



general appearance when Significance, in short, has 
taken precedence of Decoration the thing is an 
Illustration, not a Picture. 

In many of the noblest achievements of art, as in the 
frescoes of Raphael, Significance and Decoration are. so 
evenly balanced that the result is supreme illustration 
as well as supreme painting. The distinction between 
the two is more easily grasped when we deprive each in 
turn of its subordinate element. 

In the case of a Picture, if we reduce Significance to 
a minimum we get ultimately to something like an 
Oriental Carpet; if, in the same way, we deprive 
Illustration of all decorative quality we get ultimately 
to a figure in Euclid. 

The efforts of the best critics in all ages have been 
devoted, with but indifferent success, to impressing this 
radical distinction upon the public mind. Training is 
needed to appreciate the subtleties of design, form and 
colour, which are the elements of fine decoration ; just 
as training is needed to understand the subtleties of 
good music. But the general public will not take the 
trouble to learn the elements either of music or paint- 
ing ; it is content with the painting that tells an obvious 
story as it is with the music-hall song. The illus- 
trator, in consequence, has always enjoyed its immedi- 
ate favours at the expense of the true painter. Luckily 
ultimate rank is not settled by the popular voice, but by 
the accumulated judgment of trained minds ; and these 


have recognised (though not always so quickly as they 
might have done), that decorative excellence is an 
essential condition of artistic immortality. After a 
certain number of years, the star of the illustrator 
who lacks this excellence inevitably fades and dies; 
while that of the artist, which at first was obscure and 
dim, is taking place meanwhile among the great 
permanent lights. 

For the painter himself the question has a secondary 
aspect, hardly less important than that which we have 
just discussed. Though Decoration must take prece- 
dence of Significance, Significance is the parent of 
Decoration. The outward attractive aspect of a picture 
is, in its essence, only the rhythmic fusion of the sym- 
bols which convey its inward meaning. 

Decoration is thus no separate exterior quality which 
can be applied, like a varnish, to turn an illustration 
into a picture (though a thick varnish will sometimes 
make a bad picture less obtrusive), but a quality 
extracted by the painter from the particular subject- 
matter to hand, and therefore as infinitely varied as 
that subject-matter, except in so far as it is limited by 
conditions of material and function. Titian's Bacchus 
and Ariadne, Tintoret's Milky Way, Botticelli's Mars 
and Venus, Rubens' Chateau de Stein, Rembrandt's 
Nativity, Van Dyck's Charles I., Vermeer's Lady at a 
Spinet, Reynolds' Lord Heathfield, and Turner's Rain, 
Steam and Speed, are all decorative ; but the decorative 


quality in each of them is a quality fitting that picture 
alone, arising naturally out of the particular thoughts 
and things with which it deals, and incapable of being 
transferred wholesale and applied to some other 

Rules and principles of decorative composition can 
thus never do more than suggest analogies between 
the artist's thoughts and the symbols appropriate for 
their expression. To construct and to elaborate 
definite canons of picture-making from the examples of 
former masters, as the older writers on art sometimes 
attempted to do, is to court failure. Identity of con- 
struction implies identity of thought, and the practice 
of fitting one man's thoughts into another man's 
picture schemes is responsible for a considerable pro- 
portion of the bad paintings with which Europe is 

It has been my aim in these pages to suggest so far 
as lay in my power, the directions in which the painter 
may profitably study this correspondence between 
thought and expression, so that from the infinite 
variety of devices and materials at his disposal, he 
may be able to select just those which are appropriate 
to his immediate purpose. If anywhere the accidental 
turn of a phrase should seem to suggest that there is 
some rigid formula or system by which all subjects 
may be made into good pictures, I trust what I have said 
here will prove that the suggestion was unintentional. 


Yet there is one part of painting where it is possible 
that time and experience may effect a general improve* 
ment, and that is in matter of colour. Good colour ia 
at once the most important factor in decorative effect, 
and the quality which trained painters most frequently 
fail to attain. When we think how we esteem even 
third-rate primitive masters who have produced good 
colour above the strong, learned and accomplished 
academic painters of later times who were not colour- 
ists, we may wonder that the attention of students 
has not been directed to colour far more seriously than 
is usually the case in art schools. The difficulty 
attending its use in connection with strong reliel 
ought, in particular, to have been recognised and 
analysed long ago. The advantage too, of using only 
a limited number ot colours in any single design, in 
spite of Whistler's precept and example, is still rarely 
insisted upon. 

The great problem in connection with the subject- 
matter of painting is the relation of art to nature. 
" Truth to Nature," as we have seen, is one of those 
phrases which people are apt to use as if it were an 
infallible touchstone for works of art, without consid- 
ering for a moment that, had this been so absolutely, 
the great masters would not be great, and the best 
works of art would be those which most nearly resem- 
bled our modern colour photography. Even the 


realist begins by using a convention or a symbol, 
instead of an exact imitation, for the lights and 
shadows which are beyond the scope of his medium ; 
and so differs from the most arbitrary idealist only in 
the number and character of the symbols he employs. 
What degree of freedom, then, may be permitted to the 
artist in employing! pictorial symbols to represent natural 
appearances ? 

A few points at least seem clear. First we must 
observe the condition of Unity. All the symbols 
employed in a single work should be of the same kind 
and have the same relation to nature. If some are 
realistic all should be realistic ; if some are capricious 
all should be capricious. The condition of Vitality 
next involves the emphasis in each symbol of the living 
forces, the vital character, of the thing represented, in 
preference to mere surface qualities. This effect of 
vitality will be enhanced if the symbol states no more 
than the essential features, if it states them clearly, 
and if it states them swiftly, for the very swiftness of 
the execution will convey a sense of power and liveli- 
ness to the spectator. This vitality must also be 
accompanied with the tenderness and subtlety born of 
long and earnest insight into nature, or the symbol, 
though spirited, will be shallow ; while the condition of 
Repose involves that the symbol shall take its place 
quietly in the work for which it has been designed. 

Vitality and Infinity are thus the two pictorial condi- 


tions which bear directly upon the painter's treatment 
of nature. The one insists that he shall not regard 
nature as a dead thing, as an inert mass of brute 
matter, but as a collection of living organisms, much as 
modern science now teaches us to regard it. The other 
insists that he shall have an eye for the delicacy, refine- 
ments and complexity of natural forms and colours. 
So long therefore as the painter's symbols breathe 
that living force, and acknowledge that subtle tender- 
ness, they will possess the essential character of 
nature, and be true to nature, whatever facts, 01 
details, or appearances, they may, for pictorial reasons 
have to sacrifice. 

In connection with this point, two other terms 
frequently used in art criticism may be discussed 
Values and Finish. The discovery that natural 
appearances could be imitated in paint, by carefully 
matching their broad relations of tone, their "values," 
is often supposed to be a modern one, although every 
good painter since the Renaissance has understood the 
principle, and employed it as a matter of course in his 
work. In more recent times it has been elevated 
almost to the rank of a recipe for producing pictures ; 
but the inquiry we have just been making will reveal 
its limitations. In a mere broad mosaic of ton* values 
it is evident that neither the vital qualities nor the 
refinement of nature can be emphasised ; we may have 



a general resemblance to nature, but however effective, 
it will be a coarse, empty, and lifeless resemblance. 

The principle may unquestionably be useful as a 
means of training students to grasp the general aspect 
of things, as part of their artistic alphabet ; but it is no 
more a complete solution of artistic problems than a 
knowledge of the alphabet is a complete equipment for 
a poet. If Velasquez, who is sometimes named as the 
great master of values, depended for his reputation 
upon values alone, he might rank lower than the 
shadowy Mazo. It is because he could paint the 
living soul and the princely refinement of his sitters, 
and could fuse that life and subtlety into superbly 
decorative canvases, that his name stands high not 
because he matched values with conspicuous taste. 

The question of Finish is more troublesome.* Ruskin 
has described finish as " added fact," thereby epitomis- 
ing the popular view. But, as we have seen, the con- 
dition of Vitality involves clear statement of living 
character, and this clearness of statement will 
frequently be obscured if we load it with too many 
details. All painters know that it is frequently 
impossible to retain in a finished picture the freshness 
and spirit of a rapid sketch. Up to a certain point 
finish is clearly necessary, if only that the pictorial 
symbol may be understood; after that point every 

* Here, as elsewhere, Mr. Roger Fry's edition of " Reynolds' Dis- 
courses" (Seeley; 1905) has anticipated the conclusions reached. 


added detail detracts from its first essential, Vitality, 
even though for a time it may enhance the sister 
essential, Infinity. The question is, where must the 
painter stop ? 

To that question there must be countless answers, 
corresponding to the endless variety of the painter's 
subject-matter. In an altar-piece by Van Eyck, ex- 
quisite minuteness of detail contributes largely to the 
spectator's pleasure ; in the later work of Rembrandt 
absence of detail has the same effect. 

It would seem as if the painter had to make, at the 
outset, a great decision : should his aim be clearness of 
impression, or should it be richness of content ? If 
clearness of impression be the aim (as it appears to be 
with most moderns) he will consider just how much 
finish will be possible without impairing the vitality of 
his picture, and will try to refrain from adding more. li 
his aim be richness of content, finish and detail may be 
a necessity. The painter will then direct his efforts to 
retaining as much vitality as he can, either by fusing 
the details with the larger masses (Titian in this is 
unrivalled), or by executing them with the most lively 
precision, as Holbein and Millais (in his Pre-raphaelite 
time) succeeded in doing. This last method, in paint- 
ing at least, is possible only for a supremely gifted 
draughtsman ; a less lofty standard of delicacy results 
in meticulous dulness. Perfect fusion of detail is hardly 
more easy : so that, on the whole, average talent would 


seem well advised to aim at clearness of impression, 
and to avoid emptiness by working on a modest scale, 
with every available refinement of brush-work, pigment 
and colour. 

The mistake of many moderns who aim at this 
clearness of expression is to imagine that it is sufficient 
in itself to make a good picture. They forget that the 
great masters who, like Gainsborough, have worked 
with a broad loose touch, avoid the fault of emptiness 
only by the infinite subtlety and gradation of their 
chiaroscuro and their colouring. Yet even if a painter 
working on these lines does sometimes incur the charge 
of emptiness (usually from making the picture larger 
than the contents warrant), he may still retain fresh- 
ness of feeling and fine decorative quality ; whereas a 
painter who works in the minute style, and does so 
imperfectly, commits artistic suicide. Decorative charm 
and liveliness of impression will alike be buried under 
a mass of tedious detail, and what was intended to be 
art will end as illustration, and dull illustration too. 
Official English painting is peculiarly liable to failure 
in this matter, as the corresponding work in France 
and Germany is often open to criticism on the count of 
emptiness. The Impressionists were wiser, and gene- 
rally avoided working on large canvases. 

In reviewing the aims and ideals of the painter we 
need dwell only upon one aspect of them namely, the 


condition that they shall be the outcome of persona/ 
experience. We saw that the Narrative painter tries to 
render some aspect of nature as closely as his materials 
will admit, while the Satiric, Lyrical, Dramatic, and 
Despotic painters do not. Of that aspect they may 
select only those parts which are essential to their 
respective purposes, and reject all the rest. All painters 
except Narrative painters thus produce their effects 
not by attempting to paint the whole of nature, but by 
the emphatic rendering of some part or phase of nature 
the choice of the part of nature to be emphasized 
being the business of the painter's personality. 

The general limits of that choice are set by the class 
of art which the painter elects to follow, by the parti- 
cular feeling he wishes to express, by the direction in 
which his taste and inclinations lie, and by one othei 
strict condition, namely, that the part of nature chosen 
shall not correspond exactly or very closely with that 
chosen by any preceding painter. Only when learning 
his profession may the student, for the sake ot expe- 
rience, follow closely in the track of some earlier master, 
and try, for the nonce, to see with another's eyes, and 
to judge with another's taste. 

Such originality for a time will invite the neglect 01 
dislike of the public. The popular standard of per- 
fection in the arts, being always set by past achieve- 
ment, is a useless test for new genius. This last the 
crowd invariably receives with hesitation, if not with 


actual hostility, and the novel standard of taste and 
excellence which every artist creates is thus rarely 
accepted until it has been abused as incompetence or 
ugliness. The man who conforms to the standard of 
taste set by his age must inevitably be a second-rate 
artist, though he will probably be a popular painter. 
Those who wish to be more than that must recognize 
the necessity of being personal, of seeing with their 
own eyes, of thinking with their own minds, of 
delivering some message that is unquestionably theirs 
alone. The mechanical part of painting can only be 
learned with the help of the example of others ; its 
subject-matter, on the other hand, must be chosen 
anew by each successive painter, with the certainty 
that, if just the same choice has ever been made before, 
its treatment will be labour in vain. 

Finally I may return once more to the description of 
a good picture as " Personal Experience Emphasized 
by Emotion in terms of Decoration," to lay stress on 
the fact that neither Personality nor Experience nor 
Emotion nor Decoration nor Emphasis are sufficient by 
themselves. It is only in their perfect fusion that the 
solution of the problem of painting can be found, and 
to master the secret of this fusion is the hardest task 
of all. The greatest artists have had to sacrifice years 
of thought and labour in its pursuit : the pictures in 
which it has been attained beyond all reasonable chal- 
lenge are rightly termed supreme masterpieces. In 


these works significance and decoration, thought and 
expression, matter and form, already noble in them 
selves, are so completely and indissolubly blended that 
we cannot think of the one without the other, and their 
harmonious unity is at once the stimulus and the 
despair of those who would travel on the same road. 

To test and confirm the separate parts of our practice 
is perhaps humdrum work, for it is no more than a first 
preliminary stage in the journey to this distant ideal ; 
but until some royal road is invented it is still a neces- 
sary stage. In the attempt to make a rough and 
tentative map of the beginning of this route my notes 
may often be obscure, as they are certainly clumsy 
and incomplete. Yet I believe the larger landmarks are 
not far from their proper places, and my purpose will 
be served if, by their help, the reader can gain a 
general idea of the path along which every true artist 
must advance, and of the goal which lies, alas how far 
away I at the end of it. 



All great art being emphatically personal, is 
accompanied by variation from previously exist- 
ing standards of excellence (pp. xviii, xix, 273, 
277, 298, 309). 

This personal variation is marked by a new 
intensity of feeling, by a new sense of vitality, 
and by a new rhythm of pattern (pp. 275, 276, 
310, 311). 

All great artists are pioneers, possessing these 
characteristics. In their followers, the second-rate 
artists, we find less intensity of feeling, less vitality 
and a feebler rhythmical sense (pp. 5-7, 282, 


Emotion is the keystone of painting as it is of 
poetry. What is not strongly felt is no material 
for the artist. The painter's emotion sums up 
and concentrates his experiences (imaginative or 
visual) in terms of rhythmical paint, as the poet's 
does in terms of rhythmical words (pp. 9-12, 65- 


Theory is not a substitute for talent, but its 
necessary teacher. Principles of design are not 
rigid moulds into which the subject-matter of a 


work has to be squeezed. Their task is to sug- 
gest to the artist the particular means by which 
each given subject can be perfectly expressed 
(pp. 18-24, 301, 302). 


Tradition is no more than the body of principles 
which secure conformity between art and its con- 
temporary environment. What is a perfect tradi- 
tion for one period or climate may thus be a fatal 
influence in another period or climate, because 
it does not fit the changed conditions. Hence 
the danger of revivals of old methods (pp. xxi- 


Systems of art teaching have commonly failed 
from not recognising the necessity of progress 
from enslavement to a fixed canon of ideal beauty. 
No such fixed canon of ideal beauty can be set up 
as a standard for future achievement. We cannot 
do again what has already been done by a great 
artist : we must do something different. Each field 
of artistic activity is exhausted by the first great 
artist who gathers a full harvest from it (pp. xiii- 
xxii, 68, 272, 277, 291, 292). 

The great artists of the Renaissance were born 
into an imperfect tradition ; to make progress 
they had only to carry this forward towards perfec- 
tion. Modern artists, of whom Rembrandt is the 
greatest, inherit a complete tradition, from which 
no direct advance is possible. Thus they have 
first to go back to more primitive conditions, to 
secure intense vitality and emphatic rhythm of 
pattern, and from this base to start a fresh 
advance. A period of incessant experiment suc- 
ceeds, and this usually terminates in the search 
for a Dictorial atmosphere in which the various 


elements of the design may be harmoniously fused 
and united (pp. 266-280, 293-298). 


The painter's ideals may be conveniently classi- 
fied in relation to the development of the human 

I. Primitive Art, which is characterised by intense 
enjoyment of rhythm and pattern, and by em- 
phatic statement of vitality (pp. 241, 242, 275- 

II. Despotic Art, which celebrates the triumphs of 
rulers, races, or religions. It is usually imposing 
in scale, severe in treatment, with firm contours, 
and flat, simple colouring. Details, accessories 
and strong shadows are avoided. Its character 
may sometimes be transmitted to minor forms of 
art with conspicuous success (pp. 243-247). 
III. Individual Arty a more direct product of the artist's 
personality, divides naturally into four sections : 
,(i) Dramatic Painting : the art of a crisis. 

It suggests the conflict of opposing forces by 
marked contrasts of rhythm and tone and 
colour. If the dramatic sense be lacking a 
painting may be ineffective; yet contrasts 
must be used with restraint, or the result is 
melodrama (pp. 248-252). 
(ii) Lyrical Painting : the art of a mood. 

Its essentially contemplative character is em- 
phasised by the harmony and gentle fusion of 
tones, colours and contours ; by the sugges- 
tion of repose or of slow movement. In its 
perfection it demands a sensitiveness of touch 
and of taste which are found only with great 
technicians (pp. 252-255). 
(iii) Satiric Painting : the art of ridicule. 

It seems to depend chiefly upon the lively use 


of line ; an elaborate technique commonly 
detracts from its effectiveness. It permits 
almost unbounded license in treatment (pp. 

(iv) Narrative Painting : the art of description. 
Though its apparent standard of literal imita- 
tion, or exact statement, is still popular as 
providing a convenient critical formula, 
realism can only be employed safely within 
narrow limits. It becomes a source of danger 
the moment it conflicts with the decorative 
aspect of a picture. Narrative painting is 
thus less valuable in itself than as a remedy 
for mannerism ; it is a splendid tonic but an 
intolerable diet (pp. 39-41, 257-263, 303- 
305, 309). 

The peril of working exclusively from nature : 
the value of memory (pp. 26-30). 



A good picture is a decorative panel, which con- 
veys its message to us primarily by the visible 
attractiveness of its pattern. Its outward decorative 
aspect has thus a definite precedence over its subject- 
matter its inward significance. Where Decoration 
is overwhelmed by Significance we have an Illustra- 
tion, not a Picture. Decoration without Significance 
still leaves us a noble pattern ; Significance with- 
out Decoration leaves us a mere diagram (pp. 299- 

Yet Significance is the parent of Decoration. The 
decorative aspect of any picture is a quality ex- 
tracted from the subject-matter to hand ; a quality 
fitting that picture alone, and incapable of being 


transferred to another subject. This adjustment 
of subject-matter and treatment is effected by 
Design, which may be described as Emphasis subject 
to Pictorial Conditions (pp. 24, 35, 36, 301-302). 


Pictorial emphasis is the expression of the painter's 
emotion. He accentuates thereby just those points 
in his message which deserve accent, through the 
symbols, the plan, the spacing, the shadow, the 
colour and the materials which he chooses for his 
work (pp. 9-12, 15, 36, 37). 


There are four conditions to which this choice 
must conform, four qualities which all fine pictures 
in some degree possess : 

I. Unity 

A picture must be complete in itself, a panel with 
a single purpose. If two or more groups or masses 
divide the spectator's interest the result is imper- 
fect (p. 33). 

This unity is controlled by the major rhythm of 
the design. All decorative quality depends upon 
the presence of this rhythmic element, which in- 
volves a repetition or balancing of the dominant 
contours, tones, and colours, as metrical stress is 
repeated or balanced in a poem. If this rhythmic 
element be absent the contours, tones and colours 
will not make an attractive pattern ; the work will 
in consequence be undecorative, will cease to be a 
picture, and will become an illustration (p. 38 note; 
pp. 64-68). 

Unity of Symbol (pp. 41-44, 304) ; of Plan (pp 
61-64) ; of Spacing (pp. 79-81) ; of Recession 
(pp. 87-90) ; of Shadow (pp. 96-100); of Colour, 
(pp. 115-122). 


II. Vitality 

A picture must suggest the vitality which pervade* 
all nature, not mere surface appearances, or it will 
be cold, inert and dead (pp. 33-34). 

The study of values alone is thus insufficient 
(PP- 305-306). 

The subordinate rhythms in a painting assist in 
conveying this sense of life (p. 38 note; pp. 66- 
6 7 ). ' 

The immense importance of Vitality in Primitive 
Art (p. 242), and in Modern Art (pp. 275-276, 293, 

Vitality of Symbol (pp. 44-55, 304-307) ; of Plan 
(pp. 64-71) ; of Spacing (pp. 81-83) > f Recession 
(pp. 90-91) ; of Shadow (pp. 101-103); of Colour 
(pp. 122-126). 

III. Infinity 

A picture must convey a suggestion of mystery, ot 
evanescence, of refinements which the eye cannot 
precisely measure, or it will be hard and empty 
(P. 34)- 

Infinity of Symbol (pp. 55-58, 304-308) ; of Plan 
(pp. 71-72); of Spacing (pp. 83-85) ; of Recession 
(pp. 91-94) ; of Shadow (pp. 103-106) ; of Colour 
(pp. 126-129). 

IV. Repose 

A picture is a decorative panel, which must take its 
place on a wallquietly, or it will be obtrusive and 
vulgar (p. 35). 

Repose of Symbol (pp. 58-59); of Plan (pp. 72-76) ; 
of Spacing (pp. 85-86) ; of Recession (p. 94) ; of 
Shadow (pp. 107-108) i of Colour (pp. 129-134). 



Nature is the painter's storehouse (pp. 25-30). 
Yet painting is not a literal imitation of nature ; 
the materials and purpose of a picture set limits to 
imitation. We can suggest nature only by painted 
symbols (pp. 39-59, 241-242, 257-263). 

Vitality and Infinity are the two qualities which 
the pictorial symbol must retain at all costs (pp. 
303-305). Vitality is most effectively conveyed 
by the emphasis of a few significant features (pp. 
44-55, 293-295). 

The difficulty problem of Finish. The painter 
must decide at the outset whether his aim is to be 
clearness of impression or richness of content. 
Clearness of impression is the simpler and safer 01 
the two ideals (pp. 307-308). 


Al.BANO, 5 

Angelico, 73 

Bartolommeo, Frrt, 71 

Holy Family by, 71 
Bellini, John, 198 
Bewick, 148 

Blake, 5, 25, 43, 65, 66, 70, 74, 
149, 246, 275 

Creation of Eve by, 5 

The Morning Stars by, 5, 70 

Entombment by, 74 
Bocklin, 58 
Bonifazio, 122 
Botticelli, 69, 301 

Nativity by, 69 

Afars <2 F>MS by, 301 
Bouguereau, 5 
Brett, 259 

Val d' Aosta by, 259 
Brouwer, 202 

Bruegel, the Elder, 197, 256 
Burue- Jones, 74, 183 
Burnet, 24 

Campagnola, 1 39 
Canaletto, xv, 64, 217, 226 
Castagno, Andrea dal, 81 
Crucifixion by, 81 

Ceunini, Cennino, 187 
Chardin, xv, 44, 78, 221, 260 
Claude, 56, 62, 64, 65, 74, 75, 

83. 97. no. 167, 1 68, 180, 

253, 259-271, 293 
Seaport by, 64 
Cole, Timothy, 149 
Conder, 186 
Constable, 34, 52, 55, 85, 92, 

132, 133. 158, 159, 172, 

179, 208, 213, 219, 220, 

221, 226, 227, 251, 259, 

272, 282, 283, 294 
White Horse by, 213 
Cooper, Samuel, 184 
Corot, 62. 65,74,93,131,222, 

253, 283, 285 
Correggio, 70, 217, 244, 252, 


Cosimo, Piero di, 252 
Cosway, 65, 184 
Cotman, 43, 44, 67, 172, 173, 


Wherries on the Yare by, 67 
Courbet, 19, 222, 223 
Crome, 42, 71, 81, 107, 208, 

219, 226 

The Windmill by, 71, Si 
Mousehold Hi'ulh by, 107 
Cox, David, 172, 177 
Cozens, Alexander, 26 




Cozens, John Robert, 171, 

Cuyp, 171 


Daumier, 43, 132, 150, 208, 

222, 250, 256, 268, 275 
Degas, 1 86 
De Hooch, 78, 81, 92, 202, 

Delacroix, 125, 208, 221, 251, 

275, 282 

De Wint, 51, 112, 172 
Dore, Gustave, 101, 249 
Duran, Carolus, 216 
Diirer, 152, 160, 171, 197, 260 

FANTIN-LATOUR, 150, 253 
Fielding, Copley, 42, 178 
Flaxman, 56 
Fragonard, 65, no, 221 
Francesca, Piero delta, 69, 

no, 244 
Baptism by, 69, HO 

GAINSBOROUGH, 6, 25, 42, 44, 

51.53, 54, 71.92,99, 104, 
105, 1 06, 107, 118, 125, 
127, 129, 132, 133, 141, 

167, l8l, 198, 2OO, 202, 
203, 206, 207, 219, 253, 

The Market Cart by, 71, 200 
Geddes, Andrew, 156 
G6ricault, 221 
Gillray, 256 
Giorgione, 62, 63, 198, 252, 270 

Fete Champetre by, 63 
Giotto, xxii, 73 
Girtin, 171, 172, 176, 271 
Goya, 81, 150, 163, 164, 208, 
216, 226, 250, 256, 268, 


Grateloup, 164 
Gros, 221 

Guardi, xv, 217, 226, 227 
Guys, 150 

I HADEN, Seymour, 156 
Hals, 132, 208, 214, 215, 216, 

v Harunobu, 113, iig, 122 

Hilliard, Nicholas, 184, 185 
r Hiroshige, 92, 246 
Hobbema, 51, 69, 81, 219 

The Avenue by, 69, 8 1 
Hogarth, 6, 68, 69, 84, 208, 

216, 256, 257 
Hokusai, 64, 92, 251, 256 
Holbein, 141, 148, 184, 185, 
1 86, 206, 207, 260, 261, 


Dance of Death by, 148 
Houghton, 148 
Hudson, 6 
Hunt, Holman, 201 

IMPRESSIONISTS, 6,52,93,97, 
114, 121, 127, 173, 201, 

221, -232, 237-238, 283, 


Ingres, xv, 56 


KEENE, Charles, 140 
Kiyonaga, 73, 119, 122 
Kneller, 6 
Koninck, Philips de, 169 

LAURENS, J. P., 249 

Legroa, 71 

Leighton, xv 

Leonardo da Vinci, 22, 25, 32, 

34, 48, 101, 104, 138, 244, 

259, 260 

Lewis, J. F., 182 
Leyden, Lucas Van, 152 
Lucas, David, 158, 251 
Liitzelberger, 148 
Lysippos, xvii 

MANET, 210, 222, *vj 
Mantegna, 81, 152 
Marcantonio, 153 



Maris, Matthew, 253 

Masaccio, xxii, 244 

Mazo, 306 

Memling, 120, 201 

Meryon, 54 

Messina, Antonello da, 198 

Metsu, 78, 260 

Michelangelo, xxii, 4, 19, 32, 
34, 49, 56, 84, 141, 190, 
217, 244, 246, 265, 268, 
269, 270, 280 
Entombment by, 190 

Millais, 13, 112, 201, 202, 259, 


Ophelia by, 112, 201 
Sir Isumbras at the Ford 

by, 259 
Millet, 82, 132, 133, 208, 222, 

253. 275. 283, 294 
Monet, Claude, xiii, 294 
Monticelli, xiii, 222 
Morris, William, 185 
Myron, xviii 

ORCHARDSON, 193, 201 
Ostade, Van, 169, 202 
v Outamaro, 73, 122 

PAIONIOS, xviii 

Parmigiano, 75 

Perugino, 82,90, 110, 269, 293 

Pheidias, xvii, xviii 

Polycleitos, xviii 

Poussin, 32, 65, 105, 221, 253, 


Praxiteles, xviii 
Pre-raphaelites, 6, 54, 93, in, 

112, 127, 139, 173, 183, 

193, 2OI, 2O6, 258, 259, 
283, 293, 297, 307 

Prout, 56, 101 
Prudhon, 253 
Puvis de Chavannes, 43, 74, 

82, 97, 108, 229, 232-235, 

237, 246, 275 
War by, 232 

RAFFET, 150 

Raphael, xxii, 17, 48, 49, 56, 

62, 65, 75, 78, 90. 9i 138, 

141, 217, 244, 249, 268 

272, 276, 280 
Transfiguration by, 62, 75 
Parnassus by, 78, 269, 270 
Vision of a Knight by, 78, 


Ansidei Madonna by, 90 
Disputd by, 62, 90,91, 269 
School of Athens by, 90, 269 
Expulsion of Heliodorus by, 

90, 249, 270 
Entombment by, 269 
Mass of Bolsena by, 269, 

Rembrandt, 4, 32, 34, 41, 42, 

53, 54. 56, 71. 74, 75, 82, 
92, 94, 98, 101, 103, 104, 
105, 106, rio, 115, 116, 
132, 139, 155, 156, 160, 
161, 162, 167, 1 68, 169, 
197, 207, 208, 214, 215, 
217, 223, 249, 250, 251, 
253, 268, 272-276, "280, 
301, 307 

Three Trees by, 41 

Landscape with Tobias and 
the Angel by, 71 

Entombment by, 73 

Christ Presented to the People 

by, 94, 55 

The Three Crosses by, 155 

The Raising oj Lazarus by, 

Hundred Guilder Plate by, 

Nativity by, 301 
Reynolds, xiii-xvii, 6, 13, 19, 
20, 25, 44, 92, 99, 10 1, 
115, 116, 117, 124, 128, 
129, 158, 159, 205, 208, 
216, 217, 218, 223, 246, 
251, 256, 263, 272, 280, 

Lord Heathfield by, 301 



Romney, 70 

Lady Hamilton with a Goat 
by, 70 

Rossetti, 19, 74, 182, 183, 246, 
268, 275, 283 

Rousseau, Theodore, 222,283 

Rowlandson, 170, 246 

Rubens, 17, 25, 34, 53, 55, 63, 
64, 67, 70, 71, 83, 85, 94, 
195. i97t 200, 202, 203, 

206, 207, 214, 217, 220, 

221, 250, 253, 280, 301 

Chateau de Stdn by, 71, 301 
Conversion of St. Bavon by, 


Fall of the Damned by, 94 
Rupert, Prince, 157 
Ruskin, xiv, 54, 186, 258, 306 

SACCHI, Andrea, 82 

Vision of St. Romuald by, 82 
Sandby, Paul, 185 
Sandys, F., 148 
Sargent, 34, 53, 184, 216, 223 
Schongauer, 152 
Shannon, C. H., 150 
Spagnoletto, 158 

The Great Executioner by, 

Steen, Jan, 256 

TENIERS, 197, 202 
Terborch, 78, 260 
Tiepolo, xv, 82, 226, 232, 275 
Tintoret, 33, 63, 64, 98, 105, 

208, 249, 301 
Paradise by, 98 
Milky Way by, 301 
Titian, xxii, 4, 34, 40, 62, 63, 
70, 71, 102, 105, 106, no, 
114, 115, 122, 124, 125, 

127, 129, 189, 198, 200, 

207, 208, 209, 210, 211, 
212, 214, 2l6, 250, 252, 
253, 268, 270, 271, 272, 
275,276, 280, 301, 307 

Titian continued 

Bacchus and Ariadne by, 

40, 70, 71, no, 114, 124, 

2 TO, 270, 301 
Sacred and Profane Love by, 


Eiiropa by, 105 

Pitta by, 105, 1 10, 211, 271 

Noli me Tangere by, 124 

Entombment by, 250 
Turner, 34, 42, 44, 52, 62, 71, 
74, 75, 9i> 92, 97, 98, 104, 
105, 106, 107, in, 112, 
123, 127, 129, 131, 133, 
152, 158, 168, 172, 177, 
178, 179, 183, 185, 186, 

2OO, 2OI, 2O2, 2O6, 2O8, 

219, 220, 226, 249, 253, 

271, 272, 275, 280, 293, 

Calais Pier by, 71, no, 220, 

249, 271 

Bligh Sands by, 71 
Ulysses andPolyphemus by,8o 
Liber Studiorum by, 27 1 
Rain, Steam and Speed by, 


UCCELLO, Paolo, 23 

VAN DER GOES, Hugo, 202 
Van Dyck, 17, 99, 102, 163, 
171, 208, 214, 226, 253, 

272, 280, 301 
Charles I. by, 301 

Van Eyck. John, 19, 44, 194, 

206, 260, 307 
St. Barbara by, 194 
Van Eycks, The, 120, 193 

194, 196, 197 
Velasquez, 25, 33, 35, 78, 85, 

102, 208, 215, 216, 219, 

226, 250, 253, 306 
Vermeer, 78, 260, 301 

Lady at a Spinet by, 301 
Vernet, 217 
Veronese, 63, 82, 208 



WATTEAU, rv, xix, 34, 42, 
56, 115, 141, 221, 226, 

Watts, 82, in, 127, 219, 229, 


Jacob and Esau by, 82 
Mammon by, 1 1 1 
Whistler, 31, 32, 34, 35,77, 78, 
82, 85, 107, 118, 123, 150 

Whistler continued 

l $6, I 63, 208,2 13,2 14, 216, 
SarasaU by, 107 

Wilkie, 219 

Wilson, Richard, 44. 197, 308, 
216, 217,219, 2^7 


Printed in Great Britain l>g Butler & Tanner. Frome and Londem 


| 1135 
! 1920 



Robarts Library 


Nov. 5, 1 992 

For telephone renewals